Is everyone on board?

By Malcolm Thorp     From Campaign                                                                                                            

During our China Revealed lunch in Shanghai, the prickly question of online privacy once again raised its ugly head with various comments mildly for or against more or less privacy.  This meant I was forced to stick my neck out and take a stance right down the middle. The term ¡®data management security¡¯ can easily be applied to numerous industries or generic PC-related viruses issues equally. But when it involves our brands, our company reputations, possible PR nightmares or enables fantastic communication strategies, we should all sit up and take note.

Data plays such a critical part in the online media buying process, the CRM process and ultimately the consumer purchasing process that the proper management and security of all this data is often overlooked or left in someone else¡¯ hands.  Potential lapses in proper data management and security usually happen when attempting to integrate different sources or types of data. This is where people compare apples and pears, shove round pegs into square holes and maybe make the odd infringement of private confidential personal information.

To that end, we are seeing big advertisers take an increasingly hands-on approach to their data management and security by developing customised data management platforms (DMP).  This way they can effectively link their own consumer and brand data with their online media buying processes securely and without breaching any privacy laws.

People do sometimes suggest that using actual CRM data, which includes personally identifiable information (PII), with consumer online data would make life so much easier for advertisers and their agencies. Results really would be much, much better. 

However this is not actually in most cases legal.  So we can¡¯t do it.  But if you could you would, yes?  And in some countries you would probably get caught. A few companies engaging in activities involving so-called ¡®history sniffing¡¯ in New Jersey last month ended up in court for it.

But hey, that¡¯s the US, and this is China. Some would say that for online goings-on, with over two million government employees totally focused on monitoring all our internet- related activities we do not have any privacy anyway, so what¡¯s the problem?  And personal information, usually mobile phone lists at least, is bought and sold as readily as fake DVDs, so linking our PII data as directly as possible to our online activity shouldn¡¯t be out of order in China, correct?

Well fortunately it is!  But are we then missing out on rich and valuable source of proper consumer information that would at the very worst, in theory at least, actually connect with consumers with something they most likely want anyway and at a time and place they were going to anyway and are probably quite definitely in the market for?  Where¡¯s the harm in that almost win-win unlikely scenario?

Luckily however there is a process that can in theory overcome such pesky issues as the commercial exploitation of PII data. It is called ¡®onboarding¡¯. Or more fully, ¡¯CRM data Onboarding¡¯. 

This essentially involves transferring CRM data to an ¡®onboarder¡¯, which matches brand data key identifiers, adding in some website registration data, which then anonymously links the CRM data with browser data, and send to advertising platforms. Simple really.

Actually it is pretty straightforward, but does involve clever data preparation/formatting, algorithms, secure silos, consumer opt-out options and absolutely no PII cookies to name but a few of the steps in achieving onboarding. 

For Asia and in particularly the China market where we operate, we see this new onboarding process or function as being a step in the right direction.  Many in China have tried to safely match CRM and PII data with online consumer data but without much credible signs of success so far.  

More importantly we also see this as another key building block in the evolution of the RTB/DSP/DMP phenomenon in China.  Advertisers should ask their media agencies what they are doing in this key digital area: do they have a DSP? Who do they use? Where does the DMP data come from and when can they too get onboard?

The answers are coming soon to a DSP near you.