I need your email address before you read this
Every brand wants first party data - and many are getting out of control in their pursuits
The woman at the counter tries every time I show up, and I do feel bad.
It’s just that I’ve thought about it, and I don’t want to join the 7-11 rewards program. I just want the $1.09 iced coffee (even that swill is still better than any coffee in France btw). I don’t want a CVS card, or the Panera app. I don’t want a summary of all the news each morning from CNN. I certainly don’t want to supply my email address to a retail site just to look at some clothes I might throw into a shopping cart (something I’ve encountered more than once).
There was a very funny throwaway line from Kramer on Seinfeld many years ago (see above) about Radio Shack asking for your phone number when you get batteries. It’s a little less funny now. The lengths that marketers, retailers, media companies and others are going to get you to cough up your email address (or sometimes your mobile number) are getting out of control.
I understand. Cookies are going away. Apple already nuked mobile IDs. IP addresses may be next and regulators loom in the background promising to make this all harder.
So brands and publishers feel they have no choice but to rack up as many emails as they can before midnight, consumer experience or trust be damned.
“I actually think we as an industry have done a small disservice to brands by creating this panic that they must figure out how to collect as much consumer data as possible as quickly as possible to respond to the impeding cookiepocolypse [or] you’re dead. I don’t believe that is fundamentally true,” said Krystal Olivieri GroupM’s global Chief Innovation Officer.
“There is this broader existential crisis that we are going through as an industry which is, ‘how much consumer data do you actually need?;’ and ‘how much tracking and targeting do you actually have to do?’” When faced with an existential crisis, sometimes you do irrational things, like maybe a hard seltzer brand hosting a contest promising people free gas for a year.
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I talked to Olivieri for a recent episode of my podcast (Next in Marketing - subscribe!). She’s definitely a proponent of the industry using Big Data alternatives that can help brands target people using broader identifiers and signals that don’t track back to individuals. “I think there are better ways to use data that we just haven’t unlocked yet,” she said. But Olivieri also worries it will get worse before it gets better. If and when Web3 happens - while some dream of a world of freedom and pure privacy - Olivieri is concerned brands will go even further - and digital/crypto wallets will become the new cookie.
“I will be really sad as an industry [if we go there],” she said. “That’s someone’s financial information.”
Yet in a world where some people broadcast who they pay on Venmo, it’s not a crazy leap that people may be opening themselves up for even more personal targeting. In the meantime here in Web2, I wonder if brands are going to face a backlash given there fixation on building their own databases. We already know plenty of people supply fake email addresses to get stuff online. Will consumers eventually veer away from sharing with brands, or chose products that don’t push for a ‘relationship? Hard to say. People are funny - they complain about being tracked online, then get pissed when they have to log-in again and again.
If the email address chase ever does reach a point where marketers feel as though they’ve had enough, what’s their next move? While some are proponents of the many initiatives focused on finding a cookie replacement ID, Olivieri isn’t so sure.
Whichever direction this goes, it may - like many things in this industry- be driven by a big brand with big budgets that decides it wants to do business a certain way - and everyone gets on board, suggested Ben Winkler SVP, Agency Strategy at TripleLift in my most recent podcast episode.
“What I think we’re going to see happen, and this happened with brand safety and ad viewability is that some large advertiser - a GM, or a Unilever - will make a commanding statement about their requirements for cookieless targeting,” he said. “When that happens the agency that has that client will support that with all the might they bring to bear in the marketplace, and that’s when things will start to move.”
Until then, just give me your email address. No seriously.
BTW, last thing from me - I’ve just completed a five-episode sponsorship partnership with TripleLift, my first such arrangement since I started handing my podcast and newsletter on my own. I wanted to thank TripleLift for a terrific experience.
Another such partnership is about to kick off, and I’m really excited to bring you new shows focused on a very timely industry issue. If you are interested in potentially working together in a similar fashion (maybe this fall?) please get in touch: email@example.com. Thanks for reading/listening.
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