The Future of Data is in the Hands of the Consumer


The days of “spray and pray” advertising are officially over. The idea of mass, untargeted, irrelevant marketing and advertising was always an unsustainable proposition from both a business and an environmental perspective.  Organisations needed to evolve and identify those who were most likely interested in their product and those who weren’t; and that’s where the foundations of direct marketing were created.

Direct marketing is based on the principle that we are all individuals. We have individual needs, desires and wants; that’s what makes us unique. Why therefore should the marketing we receive relate to anything other than the products and services that are relevant to us?

In recent years, data has transformed the ability for organisations to market and advertise to individuals on a truly one-to-one basis through ever-increasing channels such as mobile, email, interactive websites, online display ads and even direct via outdoor advertising.
The digital revolution has taken this to a new level, providing infinite opportunities to gather data and gain insights into the needs, wants, desires and clicks of consumers.

But as the opportunity to collect and dissect data has increased, so have the related privacy concerns – and as marketing has evolved, so has the privacy debate. Ten years ago, discussions around privacy and data protection were focused on protecting against identity theft and fraudulent activities. Now the debate is fuelled by a concern that social media encourages individuals to ‘share too much’ and that organisations can ‘track’ consumers conversations and movements and use that information for commercial advantage.

A disconnect in the privacy debate seems to arise through the misperception that companies want to personally identify us an individuals. However, there’s a big difference between understanding your customers wants and needs from a data perspective, and knowing them as a person. Organisations are interested in the former as a means of having a more relevant engagement with consumers. This is a long way from the suggested ‘big brother’ view of an individuals’ life.

The new approach to privacy recommended by the Government seeks to place further restrictions on the collection and use of personal information. However, is further restriction really the answer? Should we instead be looking for an approach that balances the need for businesses to deliver a personalised, relevant consumer experience with the right for consumers to make choices with regards to how their information is used.

If we overly restrict the use of data, we need to also accept the consequences that this will bring. Firstly, over restricting the ability for Australian businesses to understand their customers and deliver products and services based upon their needs will place them at a significant disadvantage in the global market place and stifle future innovation in Australia.  Are we willing to accept the impact this may have on Australia’s viability as an information economy?

Secondly, we need to consider that many of the services that currently sit at the centre of our lives are financed and supported through advertising and marketing mediums such as news sites, social media, online comparison sites, search engines, mobile apps and other digital resources. If we restrict marketing and advertising are we also willing to consider paying for such services in the future?

Thirdly, it is important to understand that restricting use of personal information won’t necessarily reduce the amount of marketing and advertising we receive – instead, it would result in businesses reverting back to receiving mass, untargeted marketing and advertising with consumers being subject to potentially irrelevant messaging.

Thankfully, there is an answer to this problem – transparency. Companies have a responsibility to be clear to the consumer with what they are doing with their data. As consumers we also have a responsibility to understand what we’re signing up for and the consequences.

A recent research study “Data Privacy; What the Consumer Really Thinks” conducted by the UK Direct Marketing Association shows that 71% consumers are either who are happy to exchange data for specific consumer benefits or unconcerned about commercial use of their information.

In summary, an informed society requires informed data, and to achieve this we need a revolutionary privacy regime that supports the needs of both business and consumers. To find out more about the state of Australia’s privacy environment and get a clear picture of the regulatory landscape, future agendas and privacy best practices from leading experts in the field register for ADMA Forum.  ADMA has just announced it’s newest stream: Multi-channel Compliance on 24 August. Register today


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