Now that the internet is a fixture in practically every aspect of life, smartphones are almost ubiquitous and nearly every electronic device is connected via the “Internet of Things”, we are about to take the next big step: artificial intelligence, robotics and quantum computing. These technologies are not just changing society as a whole: they also affect our work as media planners.

In my view, there are three media or market-specific and technological developments which are having the greatest impact on our business at present:

1. The increasing power of the internet giants is drastically changing the advertising market. According to estimates by OMG and eMarketer, around three-quarters of German and more than half of US digital/online advertising investments now flows into the “walled gardens” of Google and Facebook. LUMA’s Digital Media Summit 2017 addressed the fact that, depending on the study, 50 to 60 percent of online shoppers in Germany and the USA search directly for the product of their choice on Amazon, without taking the “detour” of a search engine. The major platforms have understood exactly what the users want, meaning advertisers barely get a look in.

2. In the digitalisation service provision market, however, the cards are being re-dealt: management consultancies are increasingly moving into IT, marketing and commerce. Technology companies offer consulting services and agency networks are expanding their marketing expertise to include IT and commerce. It feels like new services and job profiles are springing up on a daily basis, heating up the “talent war”.

3. The model of the “average consumer” is redundant. Thanks to several contributing factors, our society is becoming increasingly heterogeneous. As a basis for planning in modern marketing, socio-demographics offer only minimal benefit in terms of differentiation and insights. There are now far more versatile and precise target group models and it is a case of implementing and improving these.

These technological trends impact on our society:

1. Things which were only possible using screens and keyboards in the past are now increasingly achievable using voice. According to Gartner analysis, by 2020 around 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be conducted without a screen. As well as the new brand presence, this represents a huge change, especially for traders – because shopping queries will produce only one result! On Amazon, the company suggests an Amazon Choice product in 59 percent of cases – posts sponsored by manufacturers only appear in response to 2.5 percent of all spoken requests as Gartner L2 points out. This means that the only successful marketers will be those who develop an integrated voice strategy and see it as part of a holistic brand experience.

2. While still a mystery to many, blockchain is among the technologies that we will encounter increasingly often in the next few years. Blockchain enables secure processing of transactions without central authority, even if the parties involved do not know or trust each other (yet). The benefits of blockchain are clear: transparency, participation, decentralisation and integrity. However, its complexity makes it hugely complicated to incorporate this technology into existing processes. Establishing blockchain solutions in the media business on a large scale will require the involvement of several participants with different market positions. For this reason, we are probably still a few years off using it on a day-to-day basis throughout the media business.

3. It seems to be the universal panacea: artificial intelligence (AI). Three areas are of particular interest in the field of marketing: AI helps to evaluate existing data and provide brand new insights into customers and target audiences using analysis and reports. At the content creation stage, it can use user data to personalise advertisements and it enables automation of several media planning processes. At Mediaplus, for example, with Brand Investor we have created a tool which can build an impact-based plan for all campaign objectives across 19 channels. The result is a media mix from the machine, which calculates the optimum suggestion out of millions of scenarios.

Despite the many innovations, these new technologies will never be able to replace media experts. They just pose new challenges and create tasks which we should approach with courage and energy, not fear and despair. Or, as Che Guevara said using the words of Trotsky, we are living in a “Revolución permanente”.

2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

Admittedly, this trend will not only begin to emerge next year – however, in the incessant flood of information, effective and tailored targeting remains more relevant than ever for me. In order to reach customers accurately, it is no longer enough to only work with socio-demographic factors that do not take human behaviour into account and are not selective. The purchase decision not only depends on age or gender, but on values that are important to a person and with which they associate a product or environment.

If you factor in these values and the resulting motives for customer actions, new possibilities arise – and this is where psychographic targeting comes in. With this method, we at Mediaplus identify the most important motives for action (power, performance and connection) and include them in media planning. This can significantly increase the advertisers’ ROI and succeeds in addressing customers in both an individual and targeted manner.

 

This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.

2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

Linear television is not dead, even if its useful life is declining. There are a variety of different approaches that make it possible to make linear television more efficient:

  •  with a more creative integration of TV and online creations, which fits in with content and platform
  • through a better return channel capability from addressable TV to really bring out its added value
  • decreasing attention spans through second-screen use can be made more efficient by shorter ad lengths and corner placements
  • by enhancing real-time TV performance measurements to more effectively link web traffic
  • including videos where there are regional differences in TV usage in order to achieve an optimal contact corridor for an integrated campaign
  • with the development of an ‘effective impact corridor’ of various moving image formats in order to supplement the classical planning with the effect factor

 

This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.

Digitisation has far-reaching implications for our society. The complexity of products, processes and technologies is increasing rapidly, people are networking worldwide, there is a new spirit of optimism. At the same time, we are in permanent beta status. Just as we have mastered a software or interface, an update comes along and we have to relearn. It is rare for conditions to remain constant for more than a few years. The only constant is change. This has far-reaching consequences for our society, but also for media planning. Until recently, society was more structured, and socio-demographic target group descriptions were the simplest and most satisfactory way to describe clients.

Socio-demographics cannot even begin to reflect today’s reality. The traditional roles of men and women have also largely become obsolete. Increased education levels have led to greater gender equality, and the old stereotypes are being broken down in both the workplace and the home. In 1980, 46 percent of all men married a woman who had a lower level of education; in 2016 this figure was only 32 percent. In the same time period, the number of men marrying upwards, that is, marrying a woman with a higher level of education, increased from three to ten percent. These changes represent the collapse of the middle class of society. To put it clearly, there are now only well-educated couples and poorly-educated couples. Couples with mixed education levels are increasingly uncommon. On average, 30 percent of men are well-educated, compared with 55 percent of women. As women are less likely to marry “downwards”, 25 percent of well-educated women remain single – a fact that can be observed in many cities. On the one hand, there are educated couples with double incomes and thus greater consumption capacity, on the other hand, singles or less-educated couples with only one income. Of course, all these individuals have a gender and an age. However, this does not say much about their living conditions and consumption capacity.

Values or motivators offer much better insights into buying behaviour

This change of social norms and structures causes a massive problem for advertisers, in particular for manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs): The hitherto common target group of “households between 24 and 54 years” is no longer effective. An example: In the past, the promotion of an organic, ecologically sustainable dish soap would have focused predominately on wives and mothers. Today, however, this approach would ignore a large number of potential customers. Conscious, value-led purchasing is independent of age and sex. And only about 30 percent of all buyers are repeat customers. The remaining 70 percent are new customers or switching customers who think little of brand loyalty. For brands, it is particularly important to appeal to and retain repeat customers – and today that can often be ecologically conscious, male singles.

Purchase decisions no longer depend on age and gender, but are much more influenced by the values that are important to a person and their motivation for taking action. New approaches to media planning can target these values and motives. This can prevent the exclusion of potential customers from advertising, simply because they do not belong to a specific age group or gender.

Psychographic targeting: What drives action today

A good alternative to socio-demographics is psychographic targeting. Psychographics is a tried-and-tested approach that has been researched for decades in personality psychology, which primarily identifies the human motives for taking action. Buying behaviour is influenced by particular motives for taking action and can be predicted, if the motives for it are known. If a person is more performance-oriented, they are better able to react to advertising motifs that emphasise the performance of a product or the results that can be achieved with it. For a car, this would be attributes like speed or special technical features. For a person whose main motive is social recognition and the company of others, communal experiences and achievements within a group are more influential. Psychographic targeting defines appropriate personas for each brand or product that work independently of age, gender, or other socio-demographic characteristics, and that are primarily defined by their values and motives.

This motivational and situational approach means that different advertising motifs have to be created, which are designed according to the theme of the action. As socio-demographics is losing relevance, both the planning and also the creation of media must drastically change and develop tailor-made spots and motifs for individual personas.

ValueSphere: What is important to me

“Actually I’m quite different. But I so rarely have time to show it.” The quote from the Austro-Hungarian writer Ödön von Horváth makes it clear that we all have specific ideas of how we want to be and what values should guide our actions. Health, joie de vivre, closeness, modernity, quality and many more values determine our buying behaviour, because the products we purchase always reflect our own set of values. For their part, brands and products represent certain values that consumers consciously or unconsciously perceive. So each of us would probably associate Miele with quality and reliability, Lego, on the other hand, with creativity and fun.

With our in-house ValueSphere model, these brand values and the target audience are identified. At the same time, advertising environments such as newspapers, magazines and TV stations and broadcasts are divided into the same value system in order to find the media environment that perfectly matches the brand or product. In this way, coherent results can be achieved, in which advertising not only fits in better with the environment, but also achieves a higher impact.

Conclusion

It’s high time for media planning to change its views. The stereotypes of the past (men are interested in cars, women in cosmetics; young people are modern and open-minded, older people traditional and old-fashioned) are no longer useful. Today’s world is much more complex, people are increasingly individual and social groups more connected by common values and goals. The entire advertising industry – especially creation – must abandon socio-demographics as the sole criterion if advertising is to continue to reach the right people in the future.

Adressable TV (ATV) promises to increase campaign impact by supplementing high-reach TV advertisements with targeted, controllable advertising media. However, the test campaign period is now at an end. ATV will experience a significant growth spurt in 2018, making it possible to cover ranges, which will enable ATV to play an important role in campaign planning for certain target groups. A smart moving image strategy will harness the capabilities of Addressable TV, which include programmatic control and TV retargeting. And the next stage of development is already on the starting blocks, with the HbbTV 2.0 television standard set to drastically transform television as an advertising medium.

Smart TVs are gaining ground

Approximately 32 million European households have been equipped with a smart TV since 2017, with a third of German households already in possession of an internet-ready television and another 2.8 million planning to upgrade. In spite of increased internet use, television is and remains one of the most important sources of entertainment and information: the average German internet user may spend 1 hour 31 minutes on their smartphone and 1 hour 13 minutes on social media, but continues to spend 3 hours 41 minutes watching television regardless[1]. And the number of campaigns conducted on smart TVs has risen, with 100 campaigns in 2016 compared to 200 in 2017 aired on the ProSiebenSat.1 network alone, this trend is very much ‘to be continued’.

TV advertising without flicking through the channels

So far, only the small rectangular and larger L-shaped SwitchIn formats are available, which are displayed when you change channels and, where applicable, can lead the way to further content when viewers press the red button on their remote control. However, these programmatically purchased formats are already demonstrating an above-average impact. The reason for this is the full view-through rate – viewers won’t just flick through the channels as there is actual channel content to be seen. This form of advertising is also still relatively new, and has a strong impact on the consumer for that reason alone. Surveys show that audiences accept SwitchIns and don’t feel bothered by them.

A further advantage is that SwitchIns can be adapted to the region, and can therefore be made to appeal to advertising customers for whom TV was previously an unsuitable advertising medium due to high scatter loss. In addition to geotargeting, weather targeting, time targeting, retargeting, and even targeting according to the viewer’s equipment (for example, by referring to the red button on their remote controls) are possible, as well as targeting according to the viewers’ demographic characteristics. Using data during programmatic purchasing makes it possible to appeal to the right target group with the right amount of contact. With advertising retargeting, for example, SwitchIns can be specifically targeted at viewers who have previously seen the ad for a brand in an ad block. At the same time, frequency capping on the part of the marketer can prevent the viewer from suffering retargeting overkill.

A new route into TV advertising

A significant rise in the number of ATV campaigns delivered, in combination with growing budgets – the gross average budget presently standing at €146,000 – demonstrates how relevant Addressable TV has become for the advertising market. This is also evidenced by the fact that increasing numbers of advertising clients are finding their way into the televisual medium for the first time via ATV. A glance at the budget distribution also reveals that more than half of sales come from the automotive industry (22 percent), the consumer goods industry (21 percent), and the media and entertainment industry (14 percent).

The dream of personalised mass media is coming soon

ATV is therefore enjoying increasing in market success, and is set to keep expanding its market share in the near future as it also wins over advertising clients for whom traditional television advertising was previously out of the question. The future will only truly arrive, however, once the HbbTV 2.0 technical standard has established itself in this area. Then it will be possible to interchange ads in linear television, which will mean being able to tailor them to the individual viewer. That said, it is only when the two major marketing forces of SevenOne Media and IP Germany come together and enable the advertising client to apply their own data and fully control all coverage via a demand-side platform that ATV will make a quantum leap forward.

[1]Global Digital Report 2018. We are Social. AGF TV panels in cooperation with GfK in the period 01/01-31/12/2017; Random sample: 16 to 64-year-old internet users in Germany.

media planung

Planning effective advertising campaigns has never been harder. The hundreds of thousands of additional media options we have compared to just 20 years ago make the planning process dizzying and often confusing. Our clients and our agency try to narrow down our process into a few clear steps to keep us all focused as we contemplate the current marketing environment and get ready to adapt to the changes that tomorrow will inevitably bring. Here are our top three planning tactics:

Low share of voice is no share of voice

There are many viable options of where to spend your media dollars, but we have always found that limiting your selection to a few core partners always yields best results. Every media plan needs to find at least one moment to “own” with enough reach and frequency to stand out from the competition. We like to use the saying that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. One can try and boil it at 80 degrees, but all that will have happen is a bath, typically one that the client’s budget and brand gets to take.

Quality vs. quantity

In the age of programmatic where the focus is buying cheap media in bulk, advertisers are starting to lose sight of the fact that where your ads show up matters. Even programmatic’s biggest advocates agree – If editorial and contextual adjacency didn’t matter, every men’s shaving razor brand would advertise only on porn sites, for example, finding the perfect demo at the cheapest costs.

It is the need to attract an audience willing to engage with your brand with the proper headset that has driven the resurgence in traditional media. All of the women reading Vogue have at least one thing in common (current fashion) and could pivot to see your brand in a similarly positive way. Additionally, traditional media can clearly scale to support the best performers.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

Goals need to be established at the start of a digital campaign, because a missed impression caused by the lack of a placed pixel is a missed opportunity to make a sale. More importantly, the net financial objectives need to be set at the beginning as well, so that all partners can work towards solving a business problem with communications, not just looking at interim KPI’s used to track media vendor delivery.

Data is perishable and a real time dashboard is a minimum requirement to participate effectively in digital media. Depending on your industry, data collected during a campaign may not be relevant to extrapolating or retargeting in as little as a month after the campaign runs.

Starting with a simple list of “advertising commandments” is a great way to retake control over your marketing process and budgets. You can add amendments anytime as the environment changes.

Forbes Magazine named 2017 “the year of voice search,” as 43% of US online adults now use a digital assistant and 97% say they like to get general information from digital assistants today. According to Techcrunch, the Echo Dot was the best-selling product on all of Amazon in the 2018 holiday season. That’s a big reason that 60% of people started using voice search over the past year according to Mindmeld. These statistics make it clear that the $100B global search industry is getting ready to pivot in a new direction. How will voice tech effect your brand’s marketing strategy? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the difference between voice tech and voice search?

  • Voice tech is a broad term for all voice enabled systems like phones, Iphones, Siri, Cortana, voice to text transcription, etc. Voice Search is a Google product that allows users to use Google Search by speaking to a mobile phone, computer or a connected home device (Google Home, Amazon Echo, etc.)
  • The main benefit of voice tech is that we can find information when our hands or eyes are otherwise occupied. Plus, humans can speak quicker than they can type.

How long has it been around?

Voice recognition actually dates back to 1877 when Thomas Edison invented the Phonograph, but we have come a long way since then.

Milestones

  • October 4, 2011, Apple announces Siri, a digital personal assistant. In addition to being able to recognize speech, Siri can understand the meaning of what it is told and take appropriate action.
  • April 2, 2014, Microsoft announces Cortana, a digital personal assistant like Siri
  • November 6, 2014, Amazon announces the Echo, a voice-controlled speaker. The Echo is powered by Alexa, a digital personal assistant like Siri and Cortana. While Siri and Cortana are not the most important features of the devices on which they run, the Echo is dedicated to Alexa

A massive shift in voice use has already begun. ComScore states that 40% of US adults used voice search in 2017 and predicts that more than 50 percent of searches will be voice-based by 2020. The trend continues exponentially.

 

How is Voice Search currently being used?

  1. Google provides a single direct answer to queries since a standard SERP result would not be helpful. Rather, having the answer read out aloud provides immediate gratification and a much better user experience. Therefore, Google created the Answer Box.
  2. Google’s Answer Box is powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph & machine learning capabilities; it is Google’s way of understanding the intent of the user and giving the best answer. Google’s Answer Box is the ONLY answer to voice search queries, it is the result that appears above all other results on the SERP, “ranking zero”.
    • When you win the Answer Box, your result will be the one that is read to the user conducting the voice search.
    • It is NOT based on industry or category relevance, but by a variety of keyword triggers.
    • Creating a content marketing strategy based on common consumer triggers will help increase your odds for gaining top organic position via the Answer Box – powered through a query or voice search.

How to Prepare

Start with the basics: Voice queries are different than text queries

The first step for any brand would be to conduct a comprehensive analysis to understand how consumers are searching for your products. Unlike search keyword phrases that you type into your computer, voice search is more conversational and natural in tone and often locally focused.

  • Where can I buy…?
  • What is the best…?

The broader implication, and opportunity, is that SEO is shifting from keyword optimization to topic optimization.

  • Topics better address the real needs of users and the vast variety of ways in which they search.
  • Shift from the single-word keyword searches to the more specific long-tail keywords to natural language.
  • Tighten your brand description: Answer Boxes contain between 3 to 5 words.

Get ready for a paid voice search advertising world

Since Google nor Amazon are allowing voice search advertising (yet), this will most likely change within the next year or so. Take action today by:

  • Brainstorming new keyword targets. Pay close attention to your keyword strategy. How many of your targets are head keywords, how many are long-tail keywords, and how many are general topic targets?
  • Become eponymous (Kleenex vs tissues). Choose your battles. Consider fighting harder for top spots on a handful of key SERPs, while forgoing the battle for keywords that aren’t as important to you.
  • Consider local. If you aren’t already investing in local SEO, now’s the time to start. This is perhaps the most important area to concentrate on as “near me” searches become the norm for this medium.
  • Rethink your advertising mix. If you use PPC ads, you may need to rethink your approach; soon, consumers will start interacting with your ads differently, and you may need to upgrade your targeted advertising to a different format.

Next Steps

As marketing professionals, we must anticipate how data collected from voice searches can inform other media decisions. As voice search extends to platforms other than the personal assistant space, DMP’s are beginning to gather data from other devices such as refrigerators, cars, watches, etc. Especially in closed environments like Google or Amazon, the opportunity presents itself to retarget consumers in the purchasing funnel. So, while perhaps maybe we cannot run search ads right now, we can work with Amazon/Google to segment and retarget on GDN/YouTube and other media.

We still don’t know exactly how a voice search revolution will manifest, so it pays to remain flexible when the changes come. Ultimately, the best preparation for the future is to make sure your brand conforms to traditional marketing standards: clarity of benefit, clear brand message, terse call to action and ability to be loved and shared by your customers.

Addressable TV (ATV) promises to increase the campaign’s impact by supplementing TV advertisements with high-reach TV spots with targeted, controllable advertising media – the advantages of linear TV and the digital world combined. The time of test cases is over – ATV will experience a significant growth spurt in 2018. Why? The penetration of smart TVs in viewers’ living rooms is clearly increasing. In 2018, it will be possible to cover ranges with which ATV can play an important role in campaign planning in certain target groups. A smart moving image strategy uses the possibilities of Addressable TV – including programmatic control and TV retargeting. And the next stage of development is already underway – with the Hbb 2.0 television standard, spot exchange is also possible in linear TV.

Two of the mega marketing trends remain: contextual and customer centricity. What does this mean for media? Both trends must be served by real-time media and geo intelligence. At the same time, we are required to operate and display these via all touch points in a demand-oriented manner and to be close to the consumer in real time.

The fragmentation caused by digitisation and the increasing amount of data that we all leave behind holds a huge treasure trove that is still used far too little. Contextually and in real time, we can thus create much more relevance in terms of content, because we take into account and focus on the local needs and particularities, as well as people’s mentalities. A different message is needed in Hamburg than in Munich. The approach in Cologne must be different from the one in Düsseldorf. If we are already diversifying target groups and reaching them through targeting, then translation into the region is an absolute necessity. Geo intelligence can do this and much more: In addition to media planning, our customers also need more and more support with profitability forecasts, screening of existing POS and sales areas as well as support with their expansion plans.

As in all the periods during which humanity has discovered a new world, the question of ethics comes in second phase, when the settlers realize that some rules would help organizing the new land. So is the case for the new land of Data.

Data, the new far-west?

8 mn to readThis phase of maturity for the data land is now upon us, and humanity feels inclined to put some sort of order into what has been done in the past, and regulate what will be done in the future.

Data has changed everything

Obviously, data has changed everything about how a brand manages its relationships with its customers, and digital has had a bigger impact than anyone really thought it would have.

With digital, the world of marketing and media has had to face a double revolution in how consumers interact with those sending out messages. Firstly, the immediate and overpowering right to get an answer, and then, a fragmentation of uses and consumption which has led to unparalleled demand for customisation, like never before.

The right to revert came with the advent of new media – social networks – where tribes of aficionados and detractors gather, bringing their voices together until they have become equal to those who produce the information or content, and are capable of contradicting, destroying, or lauding increasingly decoded and commented brand postures.

In this new world, communication and advertising had transitioned in just a few years from a vertical mass system, controlled by the transmitter, to an individual and egalitarian horizontal system.

In the beginning, brands wanted to take advantage of technology to improve the relevance and customisation of messages as far as they could. After all, that’s what consumers wanted. Media buyers suddenly had to take on the role of orchestra conductor for individualised exposure scenarios, where the relevance of the sollicitations and their individual capping, became key. And to succeed, they had to target. And to target, they had to collect individual data, in all forms, and link them together: a client database had to be connected to a media exposure history and a website browsing, that was all! Brands or Medias could then push the right message, at the right time, to the right person. In fact, to the right profile of person, because everyone involved in the chain had agreed to use only anonymized datas.

Understanding the value of Data

A band of rich, dominant and supranational players quickly understood the value of such data, and what power it could confer. Where they had long said that if information on an audience was to be gleaned, content needed to be produced, these platforms suddenly mutated their business model, monetizing the wealth they had on their servers. Online search engine results or searches on an online hypermarket, dialogues on social networks, and uses from a device became ways of collecting this data.

Obviously, some countries tried to prevent targeting, forcing websites to more or less explicitly receive some kind of consent to be traces from their users. In front of the rejection from Internet user of a still too intrusive advertising, private organisations even invented adblockers, which stopped ads from popping up when browsing. But given the need for publishers to continue monetising their space, these users had to disable them on a massive scale to go on accessing the online content they were now used to consume.

Little by little, users realised that the free internet was only a decoy, and that if any product was actually free, the product was actually the users themselves.

Worse still, serious cases have emerged where countries have been found to control their data, and that all large companies had were little more than sieves to protect the data they have been given. Conversations, banking data and medical data could be all be stored, used and diverted without anyone’s knowledge! And then anti-terrorism Laws had been voted in the Western world, which, although legitimate, worryingly formalised the rights of Authorities to monitor the actions of their citizens.

The digital world, under the pressure of this more mature humanity has now entered a phase where the ethics question is order of the day.

The age of Ethics

Firstly, some countries, and the European Union on the front line, have recently tackled these issues head on. After struggling for many years to try and change the competitive behaviour of the major digital platforms, regulatory bodies began an all-out attack on privacy with the GDPR, in a kind of tsunami, the effects of which are not yet totally felt by all players.

First, this approach reverses the burden of proof, and obliges the players who store or use data as part of their core business to demonstrate due diligence in the protection and safeguarding of the data entrusted to them, but also to self-diagnose the processes that could affect personal confidentiality. Also, to set a precedent, it applies to any player doing business in Europe, even if that business is headquartered in Palo-Alto, Shanghai, or San Francisco. Finally, it establishes a system where the Internet user must now explicitly consent to being tracked. Subsequently, it is now likely that people will be able to approve, reject, or decide to appear or disappear completely from all databases where their personal data is stored. This imposes on economic players and their subcontractors not only a duty to obey, but mainly to inform their users in an extremely painstaking way about what they do with their datas.

The approach shows to what extent public Authorities have now become fully aware of their duty to protect and supervise a form of self-regulation that until that point had been imperfect.

Having crossed swords for years with the major digital platforms for one or other issue like abusing from their dominant position or like tax territoriality, and having questioned citizens and various marketing professionals on these occasions, public Authorities have learned, cogitated, and become very aware of how data can be and is abused.

In parallel, the French state has just published four unparalleled decrees, aimed at imposing transparency on digital platforms, again with a view to improving the transparency of the information provided to the public on their business model, and the use that is made of the data collected. Game over. Implicit obligations where users had no choice but to accept the conditions if they wanted to access specific content are now a thing of the past. Today, governments fully assumes their role of referee and ethics warden, leaving the various players to work out how they can self-regulate under these constraints. Internet users have all the power, if they want it!

But the question of ethics takes on a new dimension when thinking about the implementation of such regulations : if the cornerstone of data ethics is the collection, documentation and management of the users consent, how can we avoid relying once again on the goodwill of these same digital platforms whose governments are trying to moralise the practices? They are both umpire and player here, as they are on the definition of their opaque algorithmes. And all together, they hold 95% of all world’s personal data. How can they be considered able to take part in this self-regulation that would directly harm their own business?

Who will control the ethics?

So who should do it? Governments? Those same leaders who fail to impose decent taxation on the platforms? The very people who have access, now legislated, to the most sensitive personal data in their fight against terrorism? Some of the very ones who the Snowden case reveals they have opaque links with the platforms they are supposed to regulate ? No. Their job is to write the rules of ethics, but isn’t it better that peers organise and manage their consent among themselves, rather than leaving it to the heathens? Or to a new body that doesn’t have a vested interest? The world of Data needs trusted third parties now more than ever, and it’s time to figure out who could play that role.

At first glance, Research institutes may be the obvious answer. After all, they have always been used to segmenting, collecting and protecting individual data. This role would require them to design more comprehensive panels, therefore integrating all of the profiles that visit one website or another, by means of questionnaires to ensure that Internet users consent to their data being collected, while reassuring them about the fact that they will be in expert and trustworthy hands. In that aspect, data brings the world of digital and the world of research closer than ever. At the moment, all the major institutes are in the midst of their digital transformation, and on the quest for internationalisation now necessary on this new global playing field. Still a lot to do…

Meanwhile, it is highly likely that the blockchain will be able to play a major role this self-regulation for the world of marketing and customer relations.

Indeed, none of the players in a chain can carry out all the obligations imposed by the GDPR alone because each is only one link. While individual players can commit themselves, they have no power over their subcontractors or clients. It is also hard to imagine how to transition from principle to reality if users must explicitly give their consent to all the players in all the chains where their data is traced. It is physically impossible, and legally unrealistic.

Blockchain is the missing element

We believe then, that the blockchain will be the missing element for this self-regulation to be effective. Stakeholders will join consortia, share their data and rely on Block chaines externalized technology to manage Internet user consent centrally. As it is currently widespread in healthcare and banking, it is highly likely that the next broad area of application for the blockchain will be customer relations, and more generally, marketing, under the impetus of regulations such as GDPR. Strangely, perhaps for the first time ever, potentially competing economic players are forced to pool their strengths and their data stores to fight on behalf of governments against digital platforms that they failed to control, implementing the et his principles such government have enacted.

With digital, citizens have never had so much power in their relationship with brands.

They first asked for more personalisation, and now they want to keep control over the very thing that make personalisation possible: their data. They have pushed governments to take up the role of protector once again, and are now pushing market players to sort this and respect their digital identity. A kneejerk reaction could have been to disconnect from the internet, and then, cut everything off at the source. But no. History shows that the more points of contact are added, the more they are consumed. People want everything, right now, but in full respect of their identity. That’s the moral of this new chapter of human history.