How did things get so off-track when it comes to data privacy? Especially in marketing and advertising. The answer ties into why Test Double is choosing privacy-minded analytics for our website. And to get there, let’s start with David Bowie.

In 1999, the always prescient Bowie gave an interview covering, among other things, this fancy new thing called the internet. When asked about the viable future of the internet, Bowie cut through the fluff:

“I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg. I think the potential of what the internet can do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.”
  — David Bowie, musician and visionary*

That forecast was not wrong. Many things about digital experiences veered into terrifying. And there are ways marketing and advertising are very much at fault.

In a newsletter share of Tim Hwang’s Subprime Attention Crisis, Branded reminded marketers: we broke society, but we can also fix it by imagining a better way.

Subprime Attention Crisis does for advertising what The Big Short did for the other subprime crisis. It breaks down how things evolved into awful over time. A not fun example: Planters Peanuts ads targeting me after tweeting about my son’s peanut allergy. Many times.

Marketing analytics and advertising has definitely become kind of broken over the years. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can do better. And we can start by noticing what’s going on and doing something about it.

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”
  — Kurt Vonnegut, writer and marketer

As a marketer I find myself both necessarily and by choice being an early adopter. When you do that you often find yourself on the edge of things. This provides a whole world of perspective.

I was using Amherst College’s low-key, VAX-based Planworld when Facebook was only a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye. My social media management started out with MySpace and I’ve been on Twitter since 2008. SEO entered my consciousness when spiders were still the big topic of conversation. And I got into contextual advertising with a focus on quality, niche blogs and news sites.

What Bowie predicted, and I’ve noticed being on the leading marketing edge, is digital marketing technology developed due to specific, deliberate choices made along the way. The impacts of those intentions were not always foreseen and are definitely both good and bad.

Now we’re at a very real inflection point in marketing. Third-party cookies are going away for good, data privacy has become a focal point and U.S. legislation is getting real. This is actually good. The current system is pretty broken. Marketers need some motivation to start making the right decisions again. The lure of the mystical attribution unicorn is strong, and hard to fight.

At the same time, thought leadership in the marketing space has amounted to: “Hey, so this thing is happening. We probably need to prepare. At some point.”

When I started looking at privacy-minded web analytics options and wanted to talk to actual marketing users, I found three themes:

  • Crickets. Few U.S. marketers have adopted these tools yet, though I did chat with a marketer in Europe who is on top of things due to GDPR.
  • Many marketers using privacy-minded web analytics are still running in parallel with Google Analytics, because they can’t give it up.
  • There are a lot of new players out there, and it’s anyone’s guess who will still be around as things shake out.

There are a lot of super basic privacy-minded web analytics options out there. I also discovered an interesting open-source entrant with an intentional, public roadmap for expanded features. I will definitely follow them to see how they evolve over time.

I opted to go with Matomo. I’m also choosing not to run Google Analytics in parallel because privacy is important to Test Double. It matters to our double agents. It matters to our clients. It matters to me.

We wouldn’t want to read a blog and end up being tracked and retargeted invasively, and we’re not going to do that to you.

We will, in the future, invite you to opt-in to a newsletter if you want to receive our content in your inbox.

The space in between these things is exactly where digital marketing analytics and advertising went wrong.

However, privacy-minded doesn’t have to mean basic. I like that Matomo is established, open-source and offers both cloud-based and on-premise options. (FWIW, we’re going cloud-based for now.) I love that Matomo provides actual insights while still being privacy-focused. I am a marketer after all—I have questions. Timely, quality data can point you in the right direction.

“If they’re really good, marketers ask more questions and know they have few definitive answers.”
  — Amber Naslund, writer and marketer

I have a never-ending curiosity and list of questions around marketing metrics. I also for sure don’t have definitive answers. And I’m thinking about where we’re going as more marketers wake up and demand something different. (Or play catch-up as late adopters.)

Rethinking everything you have grown used to about marketing analytics is weird. It’s a gamble. But, then, so is marketing.

And that’s why marketing is an adventure. You get to discover, ask more questions and share what you find. In this case, marketers like me can help shape a privacy-minded path for more human marketing.

I’m not the earliest of adopters, yet I still continue to somehow find myself on the leading edge. Which is good. I want to see all kinds of things. And on the edge is where you can get a better view of where you want to go, so you know what questions to ask.

*Visionaries are storytellers, and marketing is really storytelling, so David Bowie was basically a marketer. Go ahead and @me on Twitter.

Cathy Colliver

Person An icon of a human figure Status
Double Agent
Hash An icon of a hash sign Code Name
Agent 0080
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Louisville, KY