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With Big Tech slow to adapt to privacy changes, brands rush to gather their own customer data

The trend: Following Apple’s privacy changes—and in anticipation of those to come from Google—many advertisers are taking consumer data collection into their own hands, rather than relying on social platforms or ad tech firms, per The Wall Street Journal.

  • Meanwhile, Big Tech is trying its best to hold on to advertisers and their spending, but progress is slow.

Dig deeper: Brands are using a variety of tactics and incentives to access this data:

  • Some are using big-ticket sweepstakes. Miller High Life was able to collect 40,000 emails and phone numbers by raffling off a branded patio set in exchange for the data, per the Journal.
  • Other companies, like Avocados From Mexico, are utilizing QR codes on store displays to get brick-and-mortar shoppers’ data, a valuable tactic for consumer packaged goods brands that don’t directly touch the customer.
  • Even digital companies that already have a treasure trove of data are hungry for more. In September, HBO Max began offering subscriptions at 50% off in a bid to bring users to subscribe directly from its platform rather than through Amazon Channels. This way, it owns the data of those 5 million customers instead of relying on Amazon.

But some incentives are more attractive than others, and effectiveness varies across age groups. Overall, discounts, free trials, and mixes of multiple offers were the strongest at driving customers to share their email with a brand, according to March 2021 Fluent data.

Meanwhile: Big Tech platforms are adapting to privacy changes, but it’s unlikely that advertisers will ever be able to see the same granular metrics that they’ve gotten used to.

  • Snap has made some progress with its Advanced Conversions tool, which obfuscates conversion data before it’s sent off the platform. Still, CEO Evan Spiegel admitted when the company reported Q3 earnings that getting to a pre-AppTrackingTransparency normal would take “a while.”
  • Meta echoed the sentiment: “Targeting is a longer-term challenge,” COO Sheryl Sandberg said.
  • LinkedIn last week rolled out a new “Group Identity for B2B” targeting option. It categorizes users into segments, allowing advertisers to "reach intended audiences across channels, like the LinkedIn Audience Network, without the need for individual-level tracking across sites," per a company blog post.
  • In the absence of super-granular metrics, LinkedIn is also testing using AI to measure conversions—but it will likely be a while before those tests yield meaningful results.

The bottom line: Given how long it’s taking Big Tech to adapt to privacy changes, brands’ shift to first-party data in the interim is a necessary move. In the future, however, it’s likely that marketers will need to incorporate a variety of different tactics—including collecting first-party data, but also making use of social platforms’ new tools, diversifying media mixes, and reallocating ad budgets.