Data Privacy and Walled Gardens are Top of Mind at RampUp

You should know: Rebecca Stone of LiveRamp

Yesterday’s RampUp event in New York, hosted by onboarding and identity resolution platform LiveRamp, was one of 20 such events planned this year. The largest happened in San Francisco in March, but the New York edition is the second largest, almost doubled in size since last year. The Plaza Hotel, which is a substantial venue, barely seemed to contain it.

The audience was a mix of brand marketers (and we should include healthcare and education providers as brands for all effective purposes), agencies, and publishers. The main themes from the keynotes and panels were predictable, but non the less pressing. Personalization, regulation, and the balanced use of first and third party data. Giusy Buonfantino, CMO of Kimberly-Clark emphasized the centrality of data to creating the kind of intimate, one-on-one relationship necessary to marketing Kimberly-Clark’s most personal products: “There’s no creative without data, and no data without creative. The intersection is an important one.”

As for consumers being willing participants at that intersection, Anubhav Mehotra, of Live Nation Entertainment, said: “Everyone is willing to share their data, as long as there’s a tangible value.”

I sat down with LiveRamp’s VP of Marketing Rebecca Stone for a deeper dive into these challenges.

Third party data isn’t going away

First party data is hugely valuable, but despite regulatory concerns, it’s not going to be discarded any time soon, said Stone. “I don’t think you can ever have a full scope in first party of every single person in your potential universe. Even if you had all of that, there’s still the problem of, is your data all aligned, and do you have all the information about that person? In order to get to the level of personalization that consumers are demanding, there’s going to have to be some give and take.”

Personal examples for Stone are the Starbucks and Disneyland apps: “How much information I was willing to hand over to get the benefits from those companies; that’s the way it’s going to go.”

Third party data —
in the form of current, or preferably real-time, behavioral data — does seem to be essential to closing the loop on personalization. A brand might know a lot about me from information volunteered through registrations or transactions, but none of that is necessarily going to tell the brand I am currently in market for a car, a holiday, or a refrigerator. “Exactly,” said Stone. “There’s always going to be a need for it. It’s just people are becoming more aware of where the data comes from and how it’s used, and that’s important to remember in the regulatory environment we’re in.”

CAN-SPAM, Stone notes, came into force almost 20 years ago. “There was panic and uncertainty about that, and now it’s just how we do business. People learned how to manage it, and opt outs are very normal in email marketing. Really good marketers should appreciate that, because opt outs are not something to be afraid of. They don’t want to hear from you anyway, so why would you waste your dollars?”

Inside and outside the walled gardens

In one of the panel discussions, Mike O’Sullivan of adtech company Index Exchange had said that, although consumers spend 40 percent of their (online) time in the big walled gardens (Facebook, Google, Instagram, and so on), that left opportunities to connect with them during the 60 percent of time spent elsewhere. A valuable insight, but surely it’s the opportunity to target consumers very precisely during the walled garden visits that is meaningful to marketers.

Stone wasn’t so sure. “I don’t think that you can choose where your customers are. Your customers have to choose when they’re ready to hear from you. And maybe it is when they’re in a walled garden. Here’s an offline example. I like to listen to Steve Aoki, the DJ. I saw an ad at a bus-stop that he has a new memoir out. I could have been targeted 100 times across Facebook, Google, and Instagram, and didn’t see it. It took me walking by a bus-stop to catch my attention, and then I went on my Amazon Kindle and bought the book. You never know when you’re going to catch somebody’s attention, so it’s important to be everywhere your customer could be.”

After all, who is exclusively inside the walled gardens? “Right, I don’t think there’s anybody who is. Real world scenarios, like the one I just gave you, can be as important as what’s on your phone and what you’re scrolling through.”

LiveRamp audiences can be delivered into environments like Facebook, Google, Pinterest, and Amazon. “Where marketers are having problems,” said Stone, “is getting the exposure logs and measurements outside the individual walled gardens. A lot of them are willing to share within their channel what their success rates are; but the most sophisticated marketers want to see that full omnichannel view. It’s not that they can’t see the results, they just can’t see them in relation to the rest of their marketing activities.”

But the walled gardens aren’t entirely to blame, said Stone. “I don’t envy them, because with the privacy challenges they have to face, there’s a very fine balance between respecting the privacy of the consumer and the needs of the people who are actually spending money. What I’d encourage marketers to think about is how you reach audiences inside and outside the walled gardens, and how do you measure the most touch-points you can, with the expectation you are not going to see 100 percent of the data you want to see. You’ll still get benefit out of doing any of those things.”

Personalization: different levels of maturity

Even some of the best-known marketing suites are still struggling with the challenge of resolving customer identity across the different parts of their suites. How much progress is really being made towards the unified view of the customer?

“There are some companies that are extremely sophisticated, and some that are struggling with just doing single channel, closed loop measurement things. I think every marketing team is in a different state of evolution. There can be companies which are extremely sophisticated in how they’re thinking about using data for marketing, but are terrible at measurement. Then there are companies which are amazing at measurement, but don’t really use that data fast enough for it to have an impact on marketing. It’s more about continual optimization across personalization, targeting, and measurement, as the core themes for marketers.

“Wherever you are today, there’s always room for improvement. Just keep looking towards the next step, and have a future goal in mind. It’s the reality of marketing.

Some neuroscience takeaways

One great thing about today’s marketing and tech conferences is how presentations go beyond the bounds of product and roadmaps, to feature real pieces of thought leadership. At RampUp, for example, Carmen Simon, a cognitive neuroscientist at agency Memzy delivered the goods on how studying brain activity provides guidance on effective messaging. I’m just going to deliver the top take-aways.

Messages can appeal to reflexes, habits, or more effortful cognitive processes.

Reflexes are those deep, instinctual reactions, somewhat beyond our control Based on brain activity, appeals to reflexes can include altruistic messages and aesthetic content (not just fear and lust, then).

Habits are familiar enough. They are patterns of behavior which already exist. Marketing messages can appeal to things people already do or enjoy, reinforcing that behavior. The longer a brain is trained in a habit, the harder that habit is to dislodge. The longer you train rats to press levers to get cheese, the harder it is for them to break the habit if they don’t need the cheese any more (they are given, let’s say, surplus cheese).

Where messages require thought, the cognitive workload grows. For example, an attractive ad for a food product can appeal to reflexes and habit. It takes cognitive effort on the part of the consumer to consider the nutritional content of the product and work out whether it’s a healthy addition to their diet. Which is why it’s easy to skip that part.

If a marketer wants to convey a message with cognitive content, it’s important to make it worth the consumer’s effort to explore it. Sometimes marketers make the mistake of emphasizing goals (requiring cognitive effort) at the expense of reflexes and habits. “The more you balance the strategic and the habitual,” said Simon, “it increases the chance of people moving in your favor.”

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