From a digital advertising standpoint, context is everything — it has the ability to move you from attention to intention. For example, let’s say you hear someone scream “Get your hotdogs here! Only $5!”. I bet that you’d be much more likely to buy that hotdog if you heard that while watching a baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Hotdogs at the ballpark just make sense (Ballpark franks, anyone?).
Every marketer is fighting for people’s attention, but finding those individuals most likely to convert into actual customers or brand loyalists is key. Context is potentially the most powerful indicator of a consumer’s intentions — it’s not just about knowing who a person is, but also what they’re doing, where and when they’re doing it, and what they are most interested in.
But context — and accurate context — is not easy to come by given existing and emerging challenges in the digital advertising ecosystem.
Advertisers are now demanding more and more transparency from publishers — and they are right to do so. Consumers continue to rally for better and more robust privacy protections of personal data — and they are right to do so as well! Ultimately, this struggle leads to regulations (like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)) that restrict the way personal data can be used, collected, and shared. GDPR and CCPA have and will continue to create major roadblocks in identifying individual people in the marketplace. Of course, this is the ultimate goal of the regulations — but it means understanding consumer preferences is becoming more challenging for marketers, yet advertisers are tasked with achieving the same level of success.
Even with GDPR regulations and other privacy checks already in place, digital advertising behemoths like Facebook continue to put consumer privacy at risk each and every day. This fact, paired with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and the recent news that Gmail developers are (still) reading your emails, has caused many consumers to throw up their hands and lose all trust in the system. The only way to rebuild trust is to empower consumers, and give them control over what is rightfully theirs… their data and Personally-Identifiable-Information (PII).
So, how can advertisers obtain sufficient context to reveal a person’s intentions when they now know less about them? The most promising option is cryptography.
Cryptography can power this revolution by securing, encrypting and sealing PII. Consumers can be served contextually relevant ads at appropriate times, without being specifically targeted on a personal level. In other words, cryptography can give marketers the ability to know an anonymous consumer is interested in purchasing a minivan, without knowing that consumer is John Smith, new father of triplets, living in St. Paul.
Integrating cryptography into the marketing model also means bringing forth a new level of transparency, which is something advertisers and publishers have long demanded from the supply chain. The technology can power campaign performance, increase impression views and more, increasing ROI for advertisers, but protecting the bottom line for publishers.
Cryptography: From Pipedream To Present Day
One important fact that’s often overlooked in this debate is that cryptography is already used every day when browsing the internet. You know that little “lock” in the corner of your browser? That message that appears whenever you’re entering sensitive information like credit card numbers or passwords? That is cryptography in action, verifying that your information is going to the correct source.
So if cryptography is already integrated into the present day internet ecosystem, why not apply that same type of thinking to digital advertising?
What if the advertising infrastructure was built with privacy as a core tenant?
Rather than pushing a user’s data into multiple untrusted central repositories throughout the advertising supply chain, data could live on the individual’s smart devices, pulling in contextually relevant ads based on their profile — which could consist only of information they chose to share. This idea is often called edge decisioning — where the data and mechanisms that govern a decision, like which ad to show when, is housed at the “edges” of a system, like on devices, rather than centrally shared within the system.
When you have privacy at the core of marketing, GDPR compliance is automatic — and compliance with future regulations will be as well. If you have the data, because you don’t need the data, you aren’t putting the data at risk.
Even the advertising giants know this. Why else would Facebook finally liberate consumers and start sporting this idea of “built-in” privacy, unless they were finally providing a make-good for the litany of scandals over the past couple years?
With cryptography already successfully integrated into the internet for payments and passwords, the logical next step is to leverage it more widely for the advertising industry. This will not only result in more relevant advertising for consumers with built-in privacy, but increased revenue for both advertisers and publishers as well.