One thing that campaigns likely won’t have to worry about over the next two years is data privacy. Consultants, on the other hand, are a different story.
“At the end of the day, this is not their problem, this is our problem,” Ryan Fanning, DSPolitical’s chief of staff, said recently. The “their” Fanning was referring to being campaigns. Still, he’s optimistic that candidates’ and groups’ outreach strategy can handle the current and pending restrictions on the use of Americans’ personal data.
“It is just a matter of how we get to the same place with more restrictions on us, with our hands tied a little bit, at this point, loosely behind our backs.”
Alex Muir, a principal at WPA Intelligence, said the deployment of data and modeling is going to be a challenge for consultants going into 2024.
“Getting data in America is easy,” he said during C&E’s CampaignTech East conference last month. “What you can do with it is increasingly restricted, and you have to be aware of what those limitations are.”
Beyond campaign strategy, the consumer data privacy laws that states are enacting — including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Utah, and Virginia which all have new laws coming into force in 2023 — also directly impact the running of consulting businesses, according to Fanning. He noted that 18 states are debating some form of consumer protection legislation that have employee-related provisions.
“This isn’t just a consumer data problem, this is also a business-owner data problem,” he said. “It’s something our operations team spends quite a bit of time on.
“I think the first six months of this year it has been probably 80 percent of their time working to map all of this data and make sure that we are in compliance with not only the laws that are in place today, but looking forward and making sure that we are prepared to deal with what these 18 states may or may not pass.”
That said, it’s not just backend business concerns that have consultants wringing their hands over the evolving data privacy landscape. One “worst-case scenario” that worries Muir is the potential demise of individual-level identifiers or household level identifiers.
“The kind of worst case scenario is kind of any potential individual or household level identifier is removed from the bid stream for programmatic advertising,” he said during the May 4th panel.
“And the big thing is that people have been talking about for years now is the death of the cookie. But it’s not just cookies. It’s IP addresses. Google has been scrubbing the last eight or the last octet of IP addresses for several years.
“Multiple CTV owners and operators are removing IP addresses entirely from their bid stream. So it’s really, spending on our side a lot of time of finding what is next. And when we don’t have individual level identifiers, we don’t have household level identifiers, in that worst case scenario, what is the best data inform targeting strategy we can bring to the market?”
One workaround he suggested is turning to the so-called closed-garden tools including WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram to reach voters, which is a common tactic is other democracies.
“It’s a way where you can directly target a known audience and see what’s happening,” said Muir. “It’s just a tool we’re not accustomed to using because we haven’t had to. We were able to do really good quality broadcast digital targeting, and so there hasn’t been any reason to master the little gardens.”
But that kind of siloing is what worries Fanning.
“So many of these restrictions can force us back into those silos and eliminate those learnings [around multi-funnel attribution] and eliminate the ability to measure well,” Fanning said. “And so kind of working towards better measurement across mediums is going to be become a little bit more difficult, but is still a very important tool for us to run effective campaigns.”