My good friend and former colleague, Adam Tuttle, shared this article today about tracking cookies.
I think it’s worth a read as I think it does show the digital advertising industry sincerely grappling with a future where tracking is more constrained.
I think this makes a good point:
“As an advertising industry, we’ve done a very poor job of communicating to the end user as to why we’re tracking them, and why this is beneficial. Few consumers understand how any of this works, and with lack of understanding it’s simple to just say no and block it.”Bill Tucker, Group EVP, Association of National Advertisers & Executive Director, The Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media.
This is absolutely true. I think the marketing/advertising industry has looked at tracking with an intense amount of entitlement (dare I say “privilege” even). Opposition to tracking is often seen as a nuisance that the industry often rolls its collective eyes at.
But truthfully, tracking is a matter of consent. Something many marketers are ambivalent about. (See also: spammers.)
Businesses have rarely had to make the case to consumers as to how being tracked benefits the consumer. These tools and campaigns are often run by outside agencies/companies or departments mainly concerned with showing a great ROI, not customer happiness.
The question becomes, really, IS tracking actually beneficial to consumers?
Can you make a strong argument that blocking cookies/tracking is a harm to consumers?
The defense I often hear from those in the industry that targeted ads are better for consumers than regular ads. Are they? That feels like a false equivalency to me. Do we know customers want to see ads at all?
Another twist on this I’ve heard recently has been that people would have to spend more time searching for things to buy were it not for targeted advertisement. That, to me, is also a false equivalency.
I know it’s heretical to say, but if consumers never learn about these goods and never buy them, are they really missing out? How many of these things we have advertised to us are things we actually need? How much are these goods really making people happy? Make that case to me.
Now, I see some validity in the argument of tracking being used to support journalism. But consumers tend to think/act in the short term, so I think it’s a hard pitch to make to many. Additionally, paywalled/subscription content is becoming more accessible and successful than ever. We’re seeing strong evidence that people are willing to pay for quality content.
As ActiveCampaign CEO Jason VandeBoom once said:
“The best marketing experience is one the person being marketed to enjoys.”Jason Vandeboom, CEO, ActiveCampaign
If marketing as we know it wants to survive, it needs to adapt or convince consumers that the benefits of tracking outweigh the perceived cost. But I think, if even the best marketing professionals in the world are struggling to make that sound sexy, that speaks for itself.