This internet age has brought many benefits to our lives. We are able to connect with anyone from anywhere at any point in time through a multitude of platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Google, Yelp, and the list goes on. Our grandparents would not believe this time that we are living in – a time where we are able to get any information on any subject instantly.
Being a nostalgic person, I remember my grandfather and previous owner of DSG, Earl Sawin, would read the Philadelphia Inquirer every Saturday and Sunday morning at the shore, soaking up every page of the paper from local to international news to crossword puzzles. It was a simple pleasure he reserved for the weekends, as weekdays were dedicated to work and family. Compared to nowadays, time was not always recognized as a precious resource, and the pace of life was much different. You were able to take a moment and focus on what was most important. Ingesting news and other content was a choice rather than something that was thrust upon you every minute of every day.
Fast forward to 2021, when over exposure to advertisements and messaging is a condition of our everyday life. Although it does sometimes go unnoticed, advertising is all around us. From driving on the highway with digital billboard marketing to scrolling endlessly on the apps on our cellphones, it can overwhelm our daily lives. This is mostly due to the fact that over time, the internet has embedded itself into every aspect of our existence.
As demonstrated in Netflix’s docudrama, “The Social Dilemma,” media consumption is addicting. Social media companies take advantage of this addiction by capturing as much of our attention as they can through the data they have collected on us. They then sell that attention to the highest bidder.(1) In fact, at their very core these platforms are designed to create consumer addiction causing “distraction sickness”, as coined by Tim Wu, Columbia Law School Professor and author of the book The Attention Merchants. Wu describes a state where a user is unable to concentrate and loses their attention and time, an epidemic “where you lose hours of the day clicking on random nothingness” (2)
And it is not just social media that manipulates, we are hit with advertisements from every angle using increasingly sophisticated strategies. Take Native Advertising, for example. Native Advertising matches the form and function of the platform upon which it appears. The ad takes on the appearance of the source (i.e.an editorial on a trusted news site) so the consumer doesn’t notice they are being advertised to. Yes, it helps advertisers with better reach and consumption results, but does it benefit the consumer?
So, what does this mean for the professional marketing community? How do we thread that needle of fierce determination for helping our clients achieve their goals with respect for consumer experience and privacy?
As a Digital Marketing Consultancy, it is imperative that we see the potential hazards, recognize when advertising is used in a manipulative and destructive way, and find that balance of using marketing tools to benefit both the consumer and our clients. As the stewards of these strategies, we ask ourselves: how can we be more responsible with the sophisticated technology we use to advertise?
Part of DSG’s business model is that we grow our network with technology partners whose systems are cutting edge, including sophisticated targeting and tracking methods. We pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve and finding new ways to match qualified consumers with our client’s services.
I believe advertising is most helpful to the consumer when tactics and technology are working to do just that. When advertising is highly targeted, the goal is to capture the consumer at the “right place, at the right time” when they are in the position to be happily matched to a service or product that is useful and appropriate. This is when advertising methods, including Native Advertising, are most effective for both the advertiser and the consumer. It all comes down to a carefully refined strategy utilizing technology to gain the most qualified traffic for advertisers, while keeping in mind your ethical responsibility.
Consumer privacy is a growing theme with search engine marketing as well as social platforms. Fortunately, it seems platforms and publishers are taking a harder stance on protecting their consumer’s privacy.
Take Google, for example, and their attempt to regulate with FloCs (Federated Learning Cohorts), which is “a method Google has devised to track Internet users’ interests and serve them ads relevant to those interests.”(3) According to Street Fight, a local-marketing online publication, this is Google’s answer for advertisers to track once third-party cookies go away in January 2022.
Basically, instead of tracking user behavior, they will be tracking by interests. FLoCs, according to Google, will be as much as 95% as effective as third-party cookies. If this is true, then it will be a win-win for advertisers looking to match users to the right products and services, and for the users who’d like their information to be private. The ads should be as effective but the user’s data will be obscured.
With Google spearheading these types of changes, we can anticipate solutions from other big players such as Amazon and Facebook as well. While these companies are now implementing new self-regulating practices, the US is also considering Federal regulatory action. This can be a double-edged sword. Regulatory action tends to make advertisers skeptical and causes agencies and advertisers to question how this will impact our ability to advertise to the right audience.
However, as we’ve seen in the past, limitations can drive creativity. With the paid digital advertising space being fundamentally altered, there will be greater opportunity to focus on organic efforts and adapt content to be more transactional to entice consumers.
Marketing is about creating relationships. Search Engine Journal tells us that “the most beautiful and meaningful way to create a relationship is through relevant content that is helpful, useful, engaging, and informative.”(4) Building a strategy on the intent of search keywords can lead to better metrics because you are giving consumers what they want when they want it and “satisfying their informational need.”
This big shift in privacy measures will increase the importance of on-site and off-site branded content. We should anticipate that being a trusted source of information online will be more beneficial to your customers than any quick-to-market paid ad. Services like Yext’s AI Search Solution, will be extremely pertinent to any brand’s online marketing.
Having been in business for 6 decades, we’ve learned that the landscape of marketing is in a constant state of change. The impetus for that change comes from the evolution of the technology and tools at our disposal. For any advertiser, agency, or consultancy, the ability to acclimate and transition strategies to adapt to these changes is the key to success and longevity.
However, with these new capabilities comes responsibility and certainly for us an obligation to be a respectful, ethical player in the digital advertising ecosystem. The era of ingesting media solely by choice is long-gone. Never again will consumers be able to put guardrails on media consumption quite like my grandfather did when he enjoyed his weekend newspaper. This being the case, it is more important than ever for advertisers and their agencies to be responsible with the power of marketing technology so that we continue to encourage consumers to make the right choices at the right time, on their own terms.
Paige Sawin Krauss, VP of Sales and Services