Hide Yo Kids, Hide Yo Wife —We Got Yo Data

Serah Jacob

Big tech and privacy are the words on everyone’s lips these days when it comes to data. The conversation started gaining major momentum when Facebook’s entanglement with Cambridge Analytica was revealed in 2018—and has continued to stay top of mind on everything from smart speakers to fridges that let us know when we’re out of milk.

In the pre-COVID-19 world, the long-standing debate between customization and privacy seemed to pivot on the question of “if” consumers desired one or the other. A year into the global pandemic, however, that question now seems to have shifted to “how”: How can consumers experience hyper-personalization in their daily lives without feeling an infraction of trust?

At a CES 2021 session, host Resha Karnik, VP of MediaLink, prompted this and all other questions to Hamish Kinniburgh (Global Chief Strategy Officer, Universal McCann), Matthew Spiegel (EVP Marketing, TransUnion), Jay Stevens (President, Hudson MX), and Lisa Valentino (EVP Client & Brand Solutions, Disney) at CES 2021 . 


Building trust through data sourcing 

The relationship between corporation and consumer (which has been tenuous at best since the age of the Industrial Revolution) seems to be getting more and more fractured by the day. With antitrust lawsuits, accusations of market monopolization, and data scandals looming at every turn, new forms of legislation—like that put forward by the EU in the last couple months—are being called for across the world.

Although data governance was unanimously supported by all the speakers at the Data Dilemma session, another approach to trustworthy utilization was raised. 

“At the core, as a company, we’re in the data insights business,” Matthew Spiegel stated, in reference to the mass amounts of aggregated data TransUnion collects and analyzes from over one billion consumers globally. He believes the future is and will continue to be a world of multifactor identities, requiring companies to be comfortable with touching any kind of identity signal (i.e., PII). 

As customer data signals vary widely in both origin and reliability today, this comfort can be enabled by1:

  • Understanding and asking the right questions about data sources (What methodology was followed in sourcing the data? Was it ethically procured?);
  • Defining rulesets for the analysis of unstructured data (e.g., customer behavioral data); 
  • Establishing a framework that can be shared with consumers and clients regarding the reporting of data collected and used; and
  • Being intentional with data destruction for data that has outlived its usefulness.

Credible data sourcing can also reduce the level of distrust brands and companies tend to have around third-party data that exists today. Rather than adjudicating data quality based on level of separation, look to source verification.

Leveraging big data to help companies survive and adapt

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt daily life, businesses around the world are being tested on perseverance and their ability to continuously adapt. Back in March 2020, global media and advertising agency Universal McCann wanted to see if they could leverage online search data and epidemiological data in combination with machine learning, advanced analytics, and modeling techniques to predict the effects of the pandemic on the world. In the end, UM was able to successfully develop a platform that their clients like Hershey Co. could use to predict fluctuations in consumer demand across various marketing categories in 32 countries. 

But UM’s use of big data is still largely uncommon in the advertising agency space. “The challenge with traditional media is that agencies have been wed to software that haven’t made any innovations in the last 30–40 years,” said Jay Stevens in the session. The platform developed by Hudson MX help advertising companies address this—bringing the capabilities currently seen as hallmarks of digital marketing (like audience targeting) to linear channels, at scale. Hudson MX firmly believes that leaders in the advertising space (arguably, business leaders in general) must have a plan to evolve to a technology and data-driven future. 

At the end of the day, the collection, storage, and use of our data is very unlikely to go away. In fact, all signs are indicating an acceleration of technology and opportunity for companies to tap into. In a world of remote work dependent on access to the cloud, fully connected smart homes, predictive entertainment platforms, and global supply chains that deliver packages within 24 hours, the future lies in putting the right systems in place, making sure we know where data comes from, and relearning how to trust each other.  



1: Trusting big data: Perspective on data governance as a customer analytics investment (Deloitte, 2015)