Whose Data Is It Anyway? Buyers? Sellers? No, Theirs.

Considering what I do for work, I’m loath to admit I hardly watch ads. Like, almost, never.

Usually, that’s prime time to catch up on Twitter or do something else entirely. Well, that’s unless it’s visually arresting or there’s music that halts my attention (but, oh, damn, I forgot about those commerce ads on IG). Then there are also those rare instances when I’m voraciously consuming a YouTuber’s content and start feeling like I’m cheating them out of their income — so I end up pressing skip a little less often.

Now if somehow your brain got to thinking this is going to be about how irrelevant and uninspiring advertising can be and that’s why it doesn’t work, well, it isn’t. Well, at least, not directly.

It’s about how I dug myself into a rabbit hole after a Privacy on iPhone | Data Auction ad stopped me (deer in headlights) in my tracks and led me to recollect a prep call from earlier this week for our upcoming AdMonsters Ops Conference on June 6 – 7, 2022, for a session called Whose Data Is It Anyway? that started me thinking about another session we’re having called What Happens to Advertising When Consumers Own Their Data? and then that led me to Streamlytics’ newly released framework for valuing consumer data, which led me to revisit Loeb & Loeb’s Jessica B. Lee’s The Value of Talking About the Value of Consumer Data, which then led me to revisit Brave’s Luke Mulks’ Back to Advertising Basics with Web3, which reminded me that in April, last year, I wrote that Apple’s ATT could be a bridge to rebuilding consumer trust. Whew!

And then it all came full circle and I realized I wasn’t just traversing down a rabbit hole…all of these things were interconnected and they are all pointing toward what the future of advertising in a privacy-first world is destined to become.

When I heard the bid caller cry, “The next sale is a digital treasure trove. Charming Ellie’s private data,” my ears pricked up. There’s another bit where he exclaims, “It’s not creepy, it’s commerce.” Check it out for yourself…

It was clever. It was personal. It was impactful. Though the ad presented nothing that would be remotely surprising to anyone in ad tech land, still, the ad hit different, because it hit home.

#AdMonstersOps SPOILER ALERT: I then remembered that what I thought was going to be a conversation about who owns audience data or contextual data — either buyers or sellers — and whose data was more valuable — with heavy hitters like Jana Meron, SVP of Programmatic & Data Strategy Insider; Myles Younger; VP, Go-to-market, Data, Media.Monks; George Stella, Co-Founder, BIGtoken and Data Privacy Protocol Alliance; and Scott Messer, SVP, Media, Leaf Group — instead ended up being a conversation about consumer ownership of their data, how they achieve that, and why we need a new state of data — separate from 1PD, 2PD, and 3PD — to define the degrees of separation from the consumer because it’s on their device and whether we choose to call that data ZPD or 0PD or whatever, and the role that Big G or Apple could have in all of that. All really fascinating stuff that you’ll have to attend Ops to hear and learn more about, so I should really stop sharing it now, shh. Ok.

At Ops, there will also be a separate conversation specifically about the consumer ownership aspect of data with three other companies that are somewhat similar to BIGtoken, in that they all help consumers to own their data and earn from it:

Whether consumers should actually be paid for their data or whether the value is even a drop in the bucket, or whether they would even care to engage in such transactions and manage their own data in this way is all really hotly debatable stuff.

And companies like BIGtoken, Streamlytics, Caden, and Reklaim will all tell you they have enough users (and partners like ad tech companies and agencies and brands) to prove that this is the exact direction things are going to move in. And a company like Streamlytics (disclaimer, I’m a microinvestor) even plans to open source their data valuation algorithms, so once that thing is in the wild who knows.

Could all of ad tech’s evils finally be coming home to roost?

Now I’m not insinuating that ad tech is inherently evil, but there have been loads of unsavory practices that directly led the industry into the very hot seat that it’s sitting in today.

The Cambridge Analyticas. The lack of transparency. The creepiness factor.  The scammers. The whole lot of it finally pissed consumers the efffff off.

But still, without advertising, there is no open web.

And without an open web, there is no equity. And while Web3 — a decentralized, blockchain-based web owned and operated by users (no, it isn’t just crypto) — promises to democratize the web, remember that Web1 and Web2 assured that as well and they ended up giving us, that’s right you guessed it — big tech. And sure it gave us influencers and creators too, but…

The truth is that Web3 is largely being built by those who have most profited from Web2, so where’s the inclusion in that?

For the open web to survive, there has to be an explicitly communicated contract between people (consumers/users) and companies (publishers and their partners). Publishers have been calling the unwritten version of this contract the value exchange,  but that agreement hasn’t been communicated properly, like ever. And so it’s been misunderstood, by the consumer, that content is free. And it also allowed for consumers’ data to be (mis)used for sundry purposes that had nothing to do with the intended applications.

Moving forward, it may seem a no-brainer to pubs, that in this privacy-forward era, users should either subscribe or provide morsels of information in exchange for content that is meaningful and relevant to them (which would include advertising), but maybe there really is another way.

Maybe there needs to be some sort of more formal arrangement and self-service tools to allow users to control and monitor how their data is being used and shared. And maybe it even offers them a little cash in exchange. And then maybe the less it all seems like hocus pocus or Dr. Strange-level sorcery to them, the more they’d be willing to share.

Sure, all sorts of questions remain, like: Is the data quality? Is the data fresh? How would you build audience segments? How would you layer this data? How would you scale this data? You know, all of the same questions that we have always had about first-party data.

But isn’t this a grand time to start figuring out how to get all of this stuff right…finally?