Data privacy 2021: What should be front and centre for the CMO right now

As the world recognises Data Privacy Day, CMO speaks to marketing and industry thought leaders about the consumer data priorities, concerns and work they believe marketing teams should be focused on right now

A lack of awareness and technical insight into how consumer data is used for targeting and retargeting purposes remains a core concern for several industry thought leaders as marketing becomes increasingly exposed to data privacy concerns and regulation.

In line with Data Privacy Day, CMO asked five leading data executives and marketing industry commentators for their views on the data privacy topics that matter most to marketing leaders, where they remain concerned about data sophistication, and what steps they’re taking individually to ensure their organisations are privacy prepared as we progress into 2021.

Data Privacy Day is an international initiative aimed at focusing attention, dialogue and effort on consumer privacy and ensuring their data is being safely used in an increasingly digital world.

Top data privacy topics for marketers in 2021

For Latitude’s chief data officer, Kshira Saagar, two topics must be front and centre for marketing leaders in 2021. Perhaps surprisingly, the first is not a technical issue but one of acknowledgement and communication.

“Marketers need to acknowledge they do use customer specific information, and then come forth on how they plan to ensure no discrimination or bias creeps into how they use this data,” Saagar tells CMO. “This would be more of a promise and a commitment from marketers to their customers, given the increased awareness and anxiety among customers on how their data is being used.”

Saagar’s second priority for 2021 would then be setting in motion the technical groundwork to follow through on that promise. To do this, he advocates a high-level review of all digital media buys, custom audience generation on Facebook and dynamic audience creation on other advertising platforms to check for such bias and discrimination.

“The simple questions of: ‘What data do we use? And how do we use them to make budget/target decisions’, needs to be answered and documented,” Saagar says.

MYOB head of product and platform, Jay Nawaz, sees the forthcoming Consumer Data Right framework as a key catalyst for further efforts to address data privacy in 2021. First announced by the Federal Government in 2017, CDR is aimed at giving consumers greater access to and control over their data. The aim is to improve consumers’ ability to compare and switch between products and services, and encourage competition between service providers, leading not only to better prices for customers but also more innovative products and services. The first industries to have the CDR applied to them are banking and energy.

“The Consumer Data Right framework is an amazing opportunity for consumers to define control over how organisations are able to access their data,” Nawaz comments.  

Read more: What the consumer data right could do for Australian brands

While it will no doubt mean a lot of work for those that wish to participate in the framework to make sure teams are ensuring compliance, Nawaz believes it is a worthwhile investment to help drive richer experiences for customers.    

“The consent frameworks being proposed are going to assist us all in having more managed and closer relationships with our customers so that we’re able to deliver them much more relevant and contextual experiences,” he says. “If we end up with an analogy of GDPR, it will hopefully drive greater trust between tech companies and consumers.”

On the advertising front, Silverbullet managing director APAC, Tim Beard, points to preparation for the demise of the third-party cookie in 2022 as a specific industry change marketers must come to terms with this year. In complement, and at a more macro level, he cites consumer awareness of their privacy and rights as a critical priority in 2021.

According to Beard, increasingly privacy-savvy consumers have already started rejecting the third-party cookie, with a 2018 Flashtalking-authored report finding 64 per cent of cookies are rejected, either manually or with an ad blocker. This was prior to new privacy legislation being implemented.

With Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies entirely, and Firefox and Safari browsers already taking a step in this direction, “this is a big deal for marketers and advertisers, particularly those who use programmatic,” he says.

This data privacy challenge also highlights the wider need for marketing leaders and their teams to become not just regulatory savvy, but also technically sophisticated about the issue of consumer data and privacy.

“While transparency and consent have always been core to laws and regulations across the globe, in the last few years technology changes have thrust these to front and centre for marketing leaders,” Beard continues. “The Apple changes to both Web and app, and broad browser changes regarding third-party cookies, have meant marketing leaders need to understand the technical constraints these changes bring. They also need to translate and balance those changes with business goals and processes previously taken for granted.

“In the future, it may be impossible to simply collect data from end users. So the main topic for marketing leaders is to understand the technology constraints and navigate those against business goals.

“Actively demonstrating concern for privacy, only using consent-driven data and targeting using something other than third-party cookies, will be vital.”

And to achieve this, you’ll need employee buy-in. Digitas chief data officer A/NZ, Maurice Riley, describes 2020 as the "everything from home year" triggering an increase in online activities. This inevitably led to changes in the ways employees store, manage and transfer information while working remotely. 

“In 2021, we will see data protection training as a key part of all employees’ responsibilities, not just IT,” Riley predicts. “Marketing leaders’ team members who interact with data at any level - whether at home or at the office - should be well-informed about policies and practices that govern how they control or process data.”  

COO of ad fraud mitigation solution TrafficGuard, Luke Taylor, also points to online advertising and how brands measure effectiveness as being significantly impacted by privacy focused initiatives in 2021 such as deprecation of third-party cookies and Apple’s ITP updates. 

“Off the back of these privacy initiatives, marketers will have shortened remarketing windows and it will be harder to attribute and measure advertising success,” he says. “Marketers will have less visibility of which channels, creatives and messaging contributed to each conversion. In turn, this diminished visibility makes it difficult to know where to invest and optimise.  

“Smart marketers have started making moves to limit the impacts of these changes before they arrive.”  

The privacy concerns biting marketers

As to the biggest concerns marketers face right now when addressing data privacy, a lack of understanding is front and centre for all of our industry thought leaders.  

The biggest concern for Saagar is the lack of awareness among marketers and marketing leaders on the kind of data being used right now to make smart targeting and retargeting possible.

“While the intentions are great and noble, it often boils down to not knowing what exact data feed is being used by these blackbox advertising systems and thus becoming complicit with it, even if that was never the intention,” he says. “An increased awareness and know-how of these systems and the data they are fed is ultimately important.”

Nawaz’s biggest concern when it comes to how brands are addressing data privacy comes back to technical competency.   

“The ability for so many different marketing tools to be easily stood up within an organisation now lends itself to there being misintended integration potentially causing a privacy breach,” he warns. “Good governance and understanding implications is the only way to limit an organisation’s exposure.”

Governance and permission-based data activity is also top of mind for Riley and the Digitas business. “Local marketers are regularly asking for data to give them more certainty: Certainty in providing great experiences, certainty in driving bigger results or giving them a competitive advantage,” Riley says.

“However, rarely is confirming with certainty we are storing, managing and using data in a compliant way or being forward thinking in our data ethics brought up in the same conversation or given just as much energy.  If I am in the room, you can believe we won’t be having a conversation about data-driven tactics without also having a conversation about data governance and data use permissions.”

Beard is concerned the complexity of data privacy continues to see businesses deferring decision making to the technology vendors. Equally, he cites issues when not asking end-users for preferences, leading to potential legal issues.

“I don’t think all marketers really understand what all these privacy changes and concerns will really mean to their traditional ways of targeting consumers,” he says, adding the majority of marketers are still struggling unifying all their consent-driven data.

A recent Silverbullet survey of UK CMOs found 65 per cent of respondents had partnered with third-party companies to understand how to make more effective use of cookie-less solutions, such as contextual targeting. A similar number are working with consultancies to maximise first-party data strategies, and half are working with partners to develop data profile systems, such as consent-based customer data platforms (CDPs).

“I think there was previously a ‘head in the sand’ mentality, and many were not changing the way they do things,” Beard says. “However, COVID taught us to adapt quickly. And it saw many businesses make decisions they had previously only pondered on. If we take one learning from the global pandemic, it is not to be scared of change - to adapt and keep adapting to the new environment.

“Preparations absolutely need to be being made and implemented right now for marketers to cope and not be caught out.”

How organisations are striving to be data privacy compliant

One tactical program Saagar is engaged in which he sees contributing to improving data privacy at Latitude involves limiting access to PII (Personally Identifiable Information) to any human being across the enterprise. The work involves two streams: One to encrypt the data at rest so no one can access information even if they had access to the database; the second is encrypting data in motion.

“If this PII data is needed for customer service or other needs and a data feed is needed to make it intelligent, then a smart encrypted service would take in customer IDs and do the necessary looking up of PII in motion and relay it to the end customer service agent, who'd only see what they need to see to contact the customer,” Saagar explains. “This way, the necessary information is used, but no one has access to it and therefore cannot misuse customer PII to bias their decisions. Essentially it’s decoupling decisioning and actioning using PII data.”

A key priority for Silverbullet to tackle third-party cookie demise is its contextual outcomes engine, 4D. The platform taps contextual targeting using keywords and topics derived by the content around advertising inventory and employs artificial intelligence and natural language processing to better target relevant audiences.

“Good contextual targeting also ensures context is not negatively associated with a product, so it would ensure the ad doesn’t appear if the article was negative, fake news, contained political bias or misinformation,” Beard says.

Another current project for Silverbullet is with a client to support revision of the latter’s consent framework. The work includes identifying the devices the end user may interact with, underlying capability of technology for analytics and advertising targeting, upcoming changes from vendors, regulatory and internal constraints and requirements.

“Our work is to support the client to ask, collect and store the preferences of the end user in order to satisfy all parties,” he adds.

Over at Digitas, the global connectivity platform, Marcel, which is used to manage the agency’s 80,000 employees globally, has been refreshed to include a ‘must-haves bootcamp’ class on data privacy.

“Though self-paced training, interactive educational content and toolkits our employees can stay on top of our policies and their responsibilities when it comes to working with data,” Riley says.  “Through Marcel, we now have a unified way to educate all our team members and ensure everyone takes and passes the class.”    

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook:


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