Unlocking the Full Value of First-Party Data

Croud’s director of data solutions, Kevin Joyner, recently joined a panel hosted by BritishAmerican Business discussing first-party data and how businesses in the UK and US can unlock its full value whilst navigating evolving legislation. Kevin was joined by Kenneth Rashbaum, partner at Barton LLP, who was able to provide his expertise on data and privacy regulation compliance in the US.

Laws around data are continuing to evolve, meaning the spotlight is well and truly on the data we use and how we obtain it. First-party data is often a business’s most valuable asset, and marketers are increasingly recognising its significance – or, rather being compelled to understand its potential as the industry moves away from relying on third-party data and cookies. But despite the use of first-party data being a priority, many marketers are still at a loss about how to harness its full potential.

The panel discussed how digital advertising is changing, what will happen if marketers fail to adapt, and how they can succeed through the smart use of first-party data.

Since its introduction in May 2018, the European GDPR has undoubtedly changed the landscape of digital advertising. As Kevin notes, one of the subsequent impacts of this legislation has been the change in the ways ad tech vendors operate. “There has never been a big enough force to cause this shift, until now”, he adds. According to Kevin, “The significance of data protection and awareness of privacy issues has snowballed since Edward Snowden to the point that we’ve reached today. We began to see coverage in the mainstream press; and now ordinary people outside the industry are data protection savvy and privacy-focused. Within the industry, the GDPR readiness initiative at Google, for example, was massive; there were thousands of lawyers across markets working on it. There is now this huge focus on first-party data, in Google’s advertising products, and a huge focus on privacy-forward digital marketing.”

Kenneth added his perspective on the wide-reaching impact of GDPR, saying that it has been an early test for the US with how businesses are approaching privacy and data. He adds that “the states are taking matters into their own hands. Some are trying to emulate GDPR, others are trying to emulate California’s legislation. But everything is still a work in progress. The older laws were designed for traditional marketing and advertising; they just don’t work any more.”

Agreeing that there was an obvious need for regulation to catch up with the pace of change, both prior to GDPR and ongoing as the industry continues to evolve, Kevin also noted the initial reluctance of the industry to get on board. “There was a period in the lead-up to the GDPR when people were asking, ‘Is it really going to make a difference? Do we really have to comply?’ and it turned out to be ‘yes’, and ‘yes’.”, he said. 

“Initially it didn’t feel like an ethical motivation, but rather a practical, business realisation. But someone said to me once, ‘The internet is an adolescent at best; we shouldn’t be too tough on it for having issues to solve’. And it’s true that it’s not the industry’s fault that the internet has evolved the way it has, and that people like free content. But this attitude has matured, and our industry is now more ethical because higher standards have been set.”

From his experience in his field, Kenneth also said he had seen a greater recognition of a broad-based belief in the entitlement of consumers to transparency and certain rights to their information.. “Transparency; you can’t hide the ball anymore in your privacy notice about how you are sharing information. The harm of getting this wrong is substantial.”

Kenneth also referenced studies from Accenture and Cisco that found that sales cycles were considerably shorter for companies that followed GDPR. “On a B2B level, this means business partners will want to work with you if you prove you are good stewards of information. And consumers will want to work with you because you’re respectful of their privacy”, he added. “Make no mistake, privacy sells.”

A practical example for how attitudes have shifted as a result of a greater importance being placed on data protection is the frequency, and to extent normalcy, of receiving privacy-focused communication from brands and services. Kevin references the occasions on which he has received emails from these types of businesses, letting him know they have made a change to one of the data processing partners they are working with. “Two years ago this would have been swiftly swept under the rug and definitely not something you would bring attention to, let alone send to your entire customer base. But this sort of communication undoubtedly contributes to brand equity nowadays and is key to building trust.”

To conclude the panel, Kenneth used a kayak analogy to articulate how businesses can ensure they are safe and remaining compliant. “If you go straight through and follow the current, you will crash into the rocks and capsize. But if you can plot your way through the rocks and through the waves by knowing where they are, knowing in advance of when they are about to appear so that you won’t crash – you will have a very successful journey. There are multiple levels of legislation in the US alone, and many companies are subject to multiple laws concurrently because they operate on a global scale. The answer to managing all of these is taking a holistic approach. No one discipline does this by themselves; marketing works with IT, who works with the business owners, who works with legal teams to frame the initiative and to show them where the rocks and the waves are — and, importantly, how those waves are constantly changing. To keep the analogy – the water volume and speed change as we get more laws and more regulations coming on board.”

Kevin parted with some sage advice for those in the industry looking to survive and thrive: “The leading advertisers will increasingly be those who leverage first-party data better than the competition, so you have to get ready. And because the ad tech vendors are already doing so much more with the tools in their platforms that are universally available, the playing field has been levelled. Where is our new arena for competing? It’s in the application of more advanced data solutions. Faced with this challenge, and the size and significance of that challenge, the advice is simply get your data house in order.”


About Croud

Croud is a global, full-service, digital marketing partner for some of the world’s leading brands. Through the seamless connection of data, technology and creativity, Croud develops strategies for sustainable growth that drive immediate business impact.

Croud builds deep partnerships with clients thanks to its unique model, using its ‘Croud Control’ platform to harness a global network of 2,400 digital experts, delivering holding company scale with the precision of a specialist.


About Barton LLP

Barton LLP is a leading commercial litigation and transactional law firm in New York City, with an office in Nashville, comprised of an elite team of former partners of “BigLaw” who have joined together to create a firm that has been recognized by Law360 as one of “10 boutiques that have established brands on par with the biggest of firms” who are “capable of competing with – and beating – the best big firms at the highest level.” The firm is a go-to for its litigation practice and matched by an equally lauded corporate practice. Barton has a strong reputation for its work in arbitration; banking and finance; bankruptcy and restructuring; business transactions; commercial litigation; corporate governance; cybersecurity, data privacy, and GDPR compliance; emerging companies and venture capital; intellectual property, immigration; labor and employment; matrimonial and family law; real estate; tax; trusts and estates; and white collar defense. Barton has an international focus with approximately 25% of its clients based outside the United States.

Barton is touted as leading the trend in securing BigLaw partners who are interested in making a lateral move to a firm that offers a more dexterous and desirable platform to practice law. The firm works at the intersection of law and business to provide client access to the legal acumen, business resources and relationships needed for success. Barton’s belief in providing a better product, value and client experience is why their clients are encouraged to “Discover Better Law” at Barton. For more information, please visit bartonesq.com.