Nightmares, Ghosts and Terror in Data Land
When you come fresh from a large industry conference — such as DMA’s &Then16 — where you have lots of conversations and learn about lots of pain points, you’re highly motivated to put those winning ideas to work on solutions. Most of these solutions require access to data and handling it responsibly to make smarter marketing decisions – for the ultimate service to customers.
Today, it’s Halloween, so here’s my own nightmare.
I wake up one morning and the entire world collectively lost its mind and governments have mandated a marketplace that’s totally (and only) opt-in for all types of marketing uses that are only helpful to consumers. There’s no more algorithms and no more “discovery.” All commerce must wait and wait and wait until a consumer asks for it. Particularly egregious online.
Marketing collectively goes dumb. Oh, I love pure branding, pure creative — but take data out of the equation, we’re truly back before the dawn of direct marketing. Not 20 years back. Not 50 years back. But 100 years back.
Entrepreneurship is destroyed. There’s no way to tap a niche market. Data is off limits. Everything is opt-in. Opt-in request here, opt-in request there. Think Europe and cookies — ask, ask, ask. Before long, we’re numb. And, except for big business, there’s no budget for blanketing the world with awareness advertising. (And why would even a big brand want to waste so much of its money?)
Websites get clunkier. You can’t even get past the home page without having to click on a permission (again, read Europe). All because some nanny-types who control policy decided consumers are stupid and have to be protected from being tempted to make purchases that generate sales, jobs, tax revenue — and, by the way, happy customers.
Everything becomes more expensive and, without the commercial availability of data, there’s a lot less of “everything.” Why? Because advertising and smart advertising (read, data), finances content, services and conveniences — gone, gone and gone. Nobody in regulatory land bothered to ask who was paying for the Internet. No one ever bothered to understand the economics of the Information Economy. No one ever understood that AdTech, MarTech and data-driven marketing had become one of the greatest of U.S. assets and exports, and Silicon Valley’s (Silicon Beach, Silicon Prairie, Silicon Alley, etc.) highest rewards.
The range and diversity of consumer marketplace choices disappear. Constantly asking for permission becomes deafening. Thus, data eventually wanes and is off limits. There's no way to derive insights to build better products, no way to devise better services and no way to compete in a healthy, competitive marketplace with a better idea.
The Information Economy is maimed — only a concentrated few, behind huge walled gardens, get to “own” and use the data. We just inflicted upon ourselves the greatest harm. We gave up the golden chalice, handled with care, for a tin cup. Beggars all of us.
Less choice. Less informed. More expensive. And, the consumer is left poorest of all.
It’s Halloween morning. Somebody woke me up.