Is consumer education pivotal for the future of online advertising?

FEDMA took part in a panel on Thursday 3 June at the 2021 Digital Marketing World Forum Global event on the importance of consumer education in online advertising. The panel was moderated by Konrad Shek, Director of Policy Research at the Advertising Association and included the following speakers: Rachel Barber-Mack, Director at Media Smart UK; Ionel Naftanaila, EDAA Programme Development Director; and Robin de Wouters, FEDMA Communication and Commercial Manager.

In the midst of a global pandemic, 2020 was a transformational year for most people. Homeworking became the norm, e-Commerce boomed, and people spent more time online than ever before. But it also accelerated the pace of digital regulatory reform. Online advertising, the cornerstone of the free internet, appears to be heading into rough legislative waters with the upcoming ePrivacy negotiations and the introduction of the Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts. This is in part a response to consumers finding online ads disruptive or privacy intrusive.

Fortunately, the industry is responding to this regulatory challenge! The panel was an opportunity to explain to the audience how research shows consumers want more information about how their data is being used and more options to manage their privacy preferences. Digital literacy is a way to empower users, not only by improving access to technology but by giving the tools to critically evaluate the media they consume.

The more you educate consumers, the happier they are to share data

Just over half (51%) of global consumers are still happy to exchange their data with businesses, as long as there is a clear benefit for doing so; and 41% of consumers understand that sharing data is an essential part of the smooth running of modern society.

As the complex regulatory framework is at times difficult for consumers to grasp (GDPR, ePrivacy, DSA/DMA), the industry has an opportunity and a duty to provide clear guidelines while also showing the importance of online advertising. This goes for example through more user-friendly privacy policies to improve consumer understanding and trust in the overall ecosystem.

FEDMA, a respected advocacy organisation in Brussels, develops ethical standards for the industry to ensure greater consumer trust. We aim to promote and protect the European data driven marketing industry by creating greater acceptance, usage and confidence in data and marketing by European consumers and business communities. The GDMA Global Privacy Principles, published last month in over a dozen countries, constitute 7 aspirational commitments for organisations, governments, and people to cultivate a trusted and successful commercial ecosystem through serving each individual with fairness, transparency and respect for privacy.

In the end, the data and marketing industry wants a lasting relationship with customers who want one and respect the decision of those who prefer to opt out.