How are consumers protected in a programmatic age? Q&A with EVP of VivaKi


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According to the IAB, more than two-thirds of marketers and agencies are expected to increase their digital ad spend, which has prompted many ad tech companies like G&R and Vivaki to seek new ways to stand out in a crowded media landscape. We spoke to John Zell, Executive Vice President at VivaKi to learn more.

John Zell, EVP of VivaKi.

As the usage of private data becomes more of a pressing issue, what can be done to reassure users that their data is being used responsibly in the face of increasingly specialized, personalized ads?
I’m not sure I’d say it’s a “pressing” issue, as privacy has been a core focus of VivaKi since we were founded in 2008 and the industry has been focused on it for some time. As agencies and marketers, I think our responsibility falls across three broad areas:

1. We have to take governance and privacy very seriously. And we’re doing that. But we need to show that we are in tune with these types of conversations and understand that the standards and laws in many countries are constantly evolving.
2. Transparency and disclosure are critical for brands for all sizes. Letting consumers opt out is not enough. We have to educate them on privacy policies and explain what they mean and why they matter. We can’t pass off that responsibility.
3. And finally, we have to show that permission and consensual marketing matter. Consumers have and will continue to trade their personal information for a more personalized experience. But what they don’t want is an over-abundance of targeted content without any real relevance to their needs.

Furthermore, how is the legal system adjusting and redefining itself to legislate, as services and platforms evolve so rapidly?
Make no mistake, they’re evolving just as quickly and standards and laws are changing all of the time. In the U.S., legislation, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was established as far back as 1996 to limit what can be done with personally identifiable information without consent. More recently—and at the state level in the U.S. —legislative bodies are stepping in to protect their residents. States like California have been at the forefront of crafting laws that protect its residents—particularly children—from what ads they can be served or the type of information marketers can collect. We also watch developments in EMEA quite closely – given the greater extent of legislation that currently exists.

What does it take to stand out in this crowded marketplace?
To stand out among their competitors — and even other brands fighting for attention — marketers need to build an ongoing engagement strategy with their consumers. It starts with social, which we know gives us the chance to listen, monitor and communicate with individuals in new and different ways. At the same time, we can keep using traditional monitoring—behavioral tracking and surveys among other things—to optimize consumers at various stages along their journey, regardless of channel.

How much consolidation of the ad tech market can we expect?
We have to think beyond just the ad tech market and marketing technology as a whole. There is a market for both. Facebook, Amazon and Google all have a stake in the game. They are ll making significant strides, while subsequently pursuing acquisitions designed to better reach users/customers. That is why the recent aqusistion by Verzion of AOL is so interesting it definitely signals that Version understands the advantage Facebook has gained in delivering content to audience – that they can clearly identify. In addition, we know that video consumption is growing faster on mobile devices than on any other medium. I tend to agree with Matt Rosoff’s recent conclusion, that “Verizon owns the pipes today; with AOL it can also own, or at least profit from, more of the stuff traveling over those pipes …”

Are brands, agencies and publishers making the most of ad tech? What factors are holding them back?
Ad tech is a function within a programmatic strategy, and while most brands and agencies understand the world is moving towards a higher level of programmatic strategy, it has yet to reach full maturity. Despite how much data is discussed and fawned over, I think there is a lack of appreciation as it pertains to data assets which are too often siloed across partners or even within an organization. There is a lack of coordination between entities that is holding us back. We think programmatic marketing campaigns of the future will require more coordination between agencies and marketers with so many changes occurring in the execution of cross channel campaigns.

As online advertising becomes increasingly targeted, what can the industry do to reassure users of their online safety and security?
They can put a stake in the ground to show their accountability and commitment to this effort. It’s something we committed ourselves to back in 2010 with the launch of our VivaKi Verified certification process, which was created to ensure the highest levels of brand safety, consumer privacy and client data protection. Our data providers are put through a legal & technical vetting process to ensure capabilities, brand safety and OBA compliance; websites undergo human and technology inspections to confirm adherence to industry safety standards; and technology providers go through a 200+ point inspection process and pilot testing to validate existence of mission-critical criteria and platform functionality.

Babar Khan Javed
Babar Khan Javed is a brand journalist. He is a post-graduate of "Squared", Google's highest qualification for marketing strategy. His work has appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as Market Leader, Consulting Magazine, Global CMO and Brand Quarterly. He is interested in the dynamics of advertising including industry topics such as how media is being transformed by technology. He can only be reached at [email protected] and responds within 24 hours.


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