Brands Adapt as Privacy Concerns Chill Advertising Business

From fast food to sporting goods, companies are harvesting and hoarding consumer data at a record pace in an attempt to maintain ad targeting at a time when government and Big Tech are erecting privacy firewalls. In the past, brands could rely on their platform partners to supply much of the data necessary for focused advertising. All that changed this year when Apple rolled out a new policy restricting how customers could be tracked on its devices. Google is said to be readying a similar revamp for Chrome. Meanwhile, California and Europe have passed new consumer privacy laws. 

And the threat of further action looms. Dozens of federal bills are working their way through Congress, while New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and North Carolina all have data privacy proposals in progress.

Left to steer their own course, “brands are deploying an array of tactics to persuade users to surrender data to the brand itself — loyalty programs, sweepstakes, newsletters, quizzes, polls and QR codes,” writes The Wall Street Journal, explaining that the trade group Avocados From Mexico is asking that people submit grocery receipts for points to earn avocado-themed sportswear and offering a chance to win a truck.

“As more people opt out of being tracked by apps, having more customer data can help keep its ad costs from rising when it buys digital ads across social media channels and from online publishers using automated ad-buying systems,” WSJ writes.

Miller High Life had an online contest to win patio furniture. The company’s own win came with the details of almost 40,000 people who participated, providing emails, birthdays and phone numbers, according to WSJ. Miller’s parent, Molson Coors Beverage Company, has conducted 300 such data-collection efforts this year.

“We have a limited window to figure this out, and everybody’s scrambling,” Avocados VP of marketing Ivonne Kinser said. So far, the group has  compiled “roughly 50 million device IDs — the numbers associated with mobile devices — and is working to link them to names and email addresses,” WSJ reports. But, the newspaper concludes, “No matter how successful brands are in these efforts, they will have a minuscule amount of user data compared with giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon.”

“According to Flurry, a mobile-app analytics provider, U.S. users opt into tracking only about 18 percent of the times they encounter the Apple privacy prompt. The upshot is that major apps, including Facebook, will have less data over time to help brands target ads on their platforms,” WSJ writes.

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