Why Data Safety is Critical for Brand Protection, and How to Ensure it

With concerns surrounding data and privacy showing little sign of quieting, the pressure for advertisers to comply with legislation is as prevalent as ever. Elie Kanaan (pictured below), chief strategy & marketing officer at Ogury, writes exclusively for ExchangeWire about why adhering to industry standards is essential to brand health, and outlines three steps all advertisers should take to ensure that their practices are up to scratch.


Humans make decisions based on emotion not just logic. Since the dawning of commerce, organisations have worked hard to build brands in the hearts and minds of consumers due to that very fact. Brand triggers emotion, and emotion drives decisions.

Today there’s no shortage of technology to help build your brand. But most technologies designed to raise brand awareness, have also caused brand problems. Problems that have forced marketers to focus as much strategic importance on brand protection, as is placed on brand building.

That’s why, in the complex and opaque world of digital advertising, brand safety and ad fraud are such prevalent issues. A huge amount of time, effort, money, and technology is committed to tackling these challenges in the name of brand protection. Hardly surprising, when 80% of consumers would reduce spending, or stop spending altogether, on brands advertised next to unsuitable content.

But now as the digital industry evolves, there's a new threat facing marketers who want to build and protect their brand. Arguably much bigger and with a higher impact than brand safety and ad fraud combined. A threat that’s wide spread and can shoot a poisonous arrow directly to the heart of your most important brand asset - trust. What is this heinous threat? Toxic Data.


Toxic Data is about to hurt your brand


Toxic data is any advertising data collected or used without the explicit permission of the consumer.

Elie Kanaan, chief strategy and marketing officer, Ogury

Since the internet blinked its first adolescent flutter of a banner ad, consumer data has been mishandled for advertising purposes. The data-driven digital ad industry has tracked consumer behaviours and taken personal information without permission for decades. Buried beneath the promise of brand awareness, fancy targeting, scientific personalisation and other such industry allure, ad-technology is fundamentally fed with Toxic Data. Advertisers and publishers have had little choice but to accept this as - ‘just the way it is’. But times are changing fast. In the last two years consumers have seen data breaches plastered all over the news, and watched high profile data scandals play-out on Netflix (i.e. The Great Hack).

Consumers now know their data is being stolen by the ad-tech industry. So when they see digital ads today without being asked for permission, they’re highly distrustful towards the brands who pay for the ads and the publishers who serve them. Unlike the first 18 years of this millennium, today Toxic Data isn’t just improper, it’s illegal. Privacy laws such as GDPR and CCPA mean the collection, handling or use of consumer data without consent is now punishable by law - carrying huge fines.

Aside from the financial havoc a fine of such epic proportions can render; just think of the implications all the subsequent bad press could have on your brand. How will consumers ever trust you with anything, if they can’t trust you in regard to their data? If you care about protecting your brand, you do not want to be associated with any of the legal, financial, or reputational risks associated with using Toxic Data. As such there’s now a new pillar of brand protection, that should be at the forefront of every marketers mind.


Data Safety: the new pillar of Brand Protection


Data Safety - obviously enough - is all about ensuring that you’re using Safe Data, not Toxic Data, for all advertising. By definition, Safe Data is any data collected or used with consumer’s informed consent, given explicitly and unequivocally, in compliance with data privacy laws.

Much like Brand Safety and Fraud Prevention, Data Safety is an issue that needs to be dealt with head on, forming a critical part of your discussions, planning, strategy and execution with all and any advertising partner.

Here are a few steps you can take to ensure Data Safety.


Data In, Verification, Data Out: The three steps to Data Safety


Data in: Give consumers a clear and fair choice.


It’s simple, but vital. We’ve all seen consent notices that are confusing or highly ambiguous. You know the ones, they all-but force you to ‘accept’ or ‘opt in’. But a forced choice is a no choice.

If you’re using ad-technology fed with consumer data collected in this manner - you are putting your brand at risk. Not only is this practice non-compliant with most data protection laws, it also has great potential to damage the perception, reputation, and trustworthiness of your brand.

To avoid this, make sure consumers have a fair choice and full control over their data and ad experience. They need to be served consent notices that inform them of exactly how, when, and why their data will be used, providing them with the option to accept or reject with equal ease.


Verification: Insist on traceable and trusted consent.


Consent is not enough, if it isn’t traceable and trusted. It’s like saying an agreement has been approved, without validating its content, with no proof of contract, no signatures, and no paper trail. It is dangerous to base your actions on such an agreement.

When working with an ad-tech partner (or data supplier of any kind), insist that they’re able to provide you with what you need to prove the legal validity of  the consent notice and the traceability of  the consent given, for all the consumer data they collect or use. If this cannot be provided to you, it cannot be provided to a regulator or user when requested - and that means the data is not safe.


Data Out: Provide a simple way for consumers to change their preferences.


“I’ll buy it now, and if I don’t like it I can always take it back”. Ever said that to yourself? It’s reassuring, isn’t it. Makes you feel like it’s ok to change your mind. Money back guarantees and returns policies exist to build trust, reduce decision paralysis, and eliminate commitment uncertainty.

What’s the point? Consumers expect brands to give them the opportunity to change their minds. The decision to share data, or not, to receive ads, or not - is no exception. Therefore when a consumer consents to sharing data, they need to know they can quickly and easily change their preferences at any time - in just a few simple clicks or taps.  What’s more, the right to be forgotten and have your data permanently erased is a fundamental right in data protection regulation such as GDPR. So, it’s a mandatory step to ensure Data Safety.


Your brand is important: make Data Safety a priority


Building a brand is arguably more important than it has ever been, and raising brand awareness through digital media is a critical part of this. But now, unless you’re confident that all your campaigns are activated using Safe Data only, you’re putting your brand at risk and simply not protecting it.

So, we must ask ourselves a simple question. How much time and money are we spending on ensuring Data Safety, compared to Brand Safety and Fraud Prevention?  For most of us, the answer is ‘not enough’. Even though Data Safety goes straight to what is fundamental to a brand; perception, reputation and trust. It’s time to make Data Safety a priority.


Ogury is a global ad tech company that delivers Personified Advertising solutions grounded in privacy to brands, agencies, and publishers by focusing on targeting personas, not people.
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