The Third-Party Cookie Monster

RAM-The Third-Party Cookie Monster

In the very active debate over online consumer privacy the voices of the agency and, by proxy, the marketer. are absolutely crucial. Matthew Greitzer, vice president of search marketing and head of Atom Systems, recently sat down to chat with Omar Tawakol, CEO of BlueKai to discuss privacy, best practices, and agencies' roles in the great debate.

Tawakol: Legislators, publishers, data providers and networks are fairly engaged on the privacy front. Do you think agencies and marketers are engaged in the legislative and privacy discussion, or are they watching from afar?
I wouldn't say agencies are watching from afar. I would say they are playing the role of "interested observer" and trying to figure out how they can best participate in this discussion. Ultimately, much of what an agency focuses time and attention on is driven by client demand, and clients have not demanded time and attention be focused on privacy. But there are some areas where agencies simply need to lead, and I think this is one of them.

RAM-The Third-Party Cookie Monster

Most legislation being discussed talks about first- and third-party cookies: Do you think advertisers realize that retargeting, frequency capping and conversion tracking all require third-party cookies?
That's a good question. One of the challenges with digital media is that to truly understand its potential you have to understand technology, at least at a base level. Some marketers embrace this, but it's certainly not part of the job description. Many agencies assume that marketers don't want to, or can't, understand the technology. That's just not true. I think if the case were made, succinctly and objectively, that a large swath of the value marketers are planning to leverage - remarketing, for example - may simply cease to exist, they would immediately understand the distinction between a first- and third-party cookie.

Do you think marketers are afraid of engaging because they are afraid of brand risk?
Quite the contrary. I think many marketers would see it as a win, for their brands, for their customers, if they could stake out the high ground on the privacy front. The problem is that they don't know where to begin. How do they engage, and with whom? This, again, is an area where agencies should be providing a road map but are generally not doing so today.

What are the best practices you see that legislators are pushing for?
It seems like two best practices that are gaining recognition at many levels include: 1) notice within the ad when behavioral data is being used; and 2) a clear and easy to understand data usage policy with the ability to control data preferences and opt-out easily. These are fairly basic and easy to implement practices, but marketers and agencies are reluctant to take these additional steps because the benefits of doing so are not clear. This is where an industry standard, or clear legislation, would actually help; it would put everyone at the same level. Right now there is still much confusion about what is necessary versus overkill.

Will it take legislation to get marketers off the sidelines in the privacy discussion - or do you think agencies can get their clients to start adopting these best practices?
I think agencies and marketers can make progress on their own, but the lack of clarity on what, specifically, to do is the main barrier to action.

Do you think agencies have an obligation on behalf of their clients to engage in the privacy-cookie discussion - the outcome of which could be legislation that can hurt many online advertising technologies?
Agencies have an obligation to represent their clients' best interests and this debate will clearly have an impact on those interests. So, yes, they need to have a point of view on this topic and engage in the conversation. I also don't think it's a zero-sum game. There is a scenario in which individuals can have strong privacy protection and the advertising technology business stays relevant and vibrant.

What kind of privacy "solution" do you think is balanced for all parties: advertisers, agencies, technology players and customers?
I like the concept of notice to consumers when data is collected, notice when data is activated - e.g., an icon in the ad itself - combined with privacy policies that are easily comprehensible and some kind of consumer controls for data management with an easy opt-out. I honestly believe that if this was done in the right way, it could actually be perceived as a benefit to customers, wherein smart management of their data preferences could trigger special offers, deals, etc. Maybe I'm dreaming, but search has shown that if you make ads hyper-relevant, customers perceive them as valuable. I think that could work here, too, and then everybody wins.

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