How the data ethics discussion is impacting Australia’s largest analytics business

TEG Analytics head of automation Daevid Richards talks data ethics, handling one of Australia’s largest customer databases, programmatic upskilling and more. 

Trust is on the ropes. Since GDPR and Cambridge Analytica’s enormous blunders brought data privacy and trust to the top of consumers’ minds, marketers the world over have been forced to prove their commitment to responsible data handling and acknowledge that giving data to a brand constitutes a real value exchange. 

But you’ve heard it all before. 

For the past couple years, trust and responsible data practices have been the topic of every other industry panel and analysed extensively on every relevant platform (including this one). 

To get an idea of how these shifting tides are impacting boots on the ground, Marketing spoke to Daevid Richards, head of audience automation (otherwise known as programmatic) at TEG Analytics. 

Richards’ job, as he describes it, is to “collect, aggregate and commercialise audience data for online commercial trading” from TEG’s other companies – one of which is Ticketek. 

Marketing caught up with Richards earlier in the year at Adobe Symposium to learn how new perspectives in data ethics, consumer attitudes and data regulation is impacting one of Australia’s largest data analytical and data science businesses. 

Marketing: There seems to be a dissonance between how marketers understand, and how general audiences view, data ethics. Audiences are willing to hand over their data as long as they see value, but are also quick to turn on brands when feeling unsatisfied or uneasy. Where do you think that dissonance comes from? 

You’re right. I think it is education, largely. Unfortunately there have been some players in the marketplace that have muddied the waters. Let’s talk about Cambridge Analytica as a leading example. While Cambridge Analytica did a lot of damage to the data industry, it also shone a light on what data is being used for. For people that don’t know what data is, I like to use that as a positive example on how we’re playing in the market to make sure that we don’t do what Cambridge Analytica does. To say, ‘look, here’s a benchmark – these guys that are doing it the wrong way; we’re at the other end of the extreme’. 

We manage data in a way that in the data management platform (DMP) – which is how we’re commercialising data – there’s nothing that comes in there that is personally identifiable information. I have a data science team that is responsible for connecting all the different technologies together and finding insights and analysis. They sometimes use data that we’re talking about in that space – customer relationship management (CRM) data – but it’s not used for the commercial benefit, it’s just used to help the business understand how to evolve – which is really important. Marketers use that kind of data all the time, so we use it for similar purposes. There is nothing in the DMP that has anything that identifies anyone at all. I sit next to the girl that manages the data governance for TEG Analytics, and we talk about it constantly. We challenge each other on what data governance is.

For me, it’s a very clear line in the sand. Let’s just say we’ve got postcode data in the DMP, we have about 16 million members registered and 72% of the Australian population has come through our platform in the last 18 months. When you have all those postcodes in the DMP, sometimes you might find that there might be one or two cookies in that DMP for that postcode. That doesn’t get commercialised, we make sure that information is taken out. There’s no point, otherwise we have a trust issue with our customers; and at the end of the day, if you don’t have trust, then you can’t grow the business. 

Do we need a GDPR in Australia? 

Look, my mum came to me when we started talking about GDPR and she was a registered nurse. She told me that 50 years ago the medical industry wasn’t as heavily regulated as it is now; and they were doing electroshock therapy quite freely. Look at the types of drugs that were available across the counter, we’ve just gone through Panadeine being taken off the shelves in chemists. So yes, I think sometimes we need governance in place just to make sure that everybody is playing by the same rules and nobody gets hurt. Sometimes what we think is right might not be right for a lot of people. Those councils that make those decisions, I just hope are well informed and have the right people on board to help them make those decisions for them.

Many marketers do a bad job communicating what they use data for and why they’re asking for it. How can they better communicate this value exchange to customers? 

Value exchange is important and you’re right. From a marketing perspective, the investment that goes back into the platform is when people are transacting with us, when people are engaging with us. It’s just the professional standard that we’ve got. Customers know that we’re a business that has been around for more than 40 years. We’re a beacon in a big online community. If we do something wrong, it will be in the press tomorrow, it’s that simple. There’s a lot of transparency in the way that we work. The value that people have is the trust. People trust when they come into our network, they know that they’re in a safe space and that we aren’t going to do anything wrong, because we will get hauled over the coals for it the next day in the media. That’s something we’re always very conscious of, and that is probably not as evident for smaller companies who may go under the radar, who don’t have as much presence in market.

That’s where I see the elastic band effect – we’ve seen the migration from offline to online where we saw a lot of small companies start up that were flying under the radar for a lot of the terms and conditions and problems that could evolve. Over time, those companies have disappeared and those that were in that offline environment have now officially moved online, and we’re sort of moving back again to having these big companies properly service us with products, trust and branded environments. That’s what we want. 

Google made the decision to move from a second- to first-price auction model. How did that affect your business? 

TEG Analytics, as a business, is built on sharing our cookie data out to market, so when we see Google Chrome, Firefox, Apple Safari on desktop browsers limit the use of third-party data or third-party cookies across campaign targeting, that plays a big part. We’re a first-party data aggregator, so our data at scale, as mentioned before, 16 million members, is sharing our data out to second parties. When our data goes from us to another client, it’s second-party data. One of the key advantages that we have with Adobe is that we can share our data to preferred clients, premium clients, through the Adobe marketplace as a first- and second-party data vendor. I would like to think that we’re a safer place, knowing that Adobe can facilitate a marketplace for us to share our data. I personally think it’s strategically smart for Apple to do the Intelligent Tracking Protection (ITP) process. It makes Apple look good, but at the end of the day it’s also collecting a lot of data across its own platform – Apple Pay is an awesome example of that. Also, Google makes a large chunk its revenue through ad targeting, through DV360 – otherwise known as DBM back in the day. By looking smart, or being the knight in shining armour, Apple’s also cutting off Google’s ad revenue from coming in the door.

Of course strategically, it’s a very clever marketing plan, one that I think we all want to see from Apple: being a leader in that market to protect us. From Google’s perspective, if we’re talking about cookie data targeting, eventually I’d like to think we’ll move towards device ID targeting instead of using cookies, it’s more effective. Where that goes as far as privacy is a concern – as a user can delete cookies and they can be made anonymous, device ID is a little different. We don’t have the opportunity to delete our device IDs in browsers at the moment. But don’t forget, mobile apps are collecting device IDs and commercialising those out to data venues. So, while we’re talking about cookie blocking, that discussion is two or three years old. We should be having a discussion around mobile device ID blocking, because that’s what the user is going to have to be really conscious of moving forwards. At the moment, in your mobile app or in your browser, you can’t block mobile device ID – it’s that simple. The public discussion needs to catch up to that. Google Chrome and Google ad serving services are reliant on commercialising data, and Google’s not going to stop that in any quick hurry with more than 50% of the browser market. There will be a way that Adobe will come up with a solution for targeting inside the browser, through allowing the DMPs to capture that information and share it out commercially. 

A big discussion at Symposium this year has been this idea of the marketing all-rounder. We’re seeing fewer marketing sub-specialists, and more people who want to be able to do it all. For the all-rounders reading this, what would be your advice in improving their programmatic skills? 

I’ve been working in media for 30 years now. I started in TV production back in 1990, I have had to re-skill so many times – it’s hard, it really is hard. People my age, nearly 50, if you are interested and passionate about what you do, that’s the first thing. You will find a way, you’ll find people to talk to, you’ll come to events like this, you will look at the fear of challenge and change in the face of it and find solutions. I can’t begin to tell you how many times my career has taken a change, and I have been made redundant a couple of times because of automation coming in. Selling the old impression-based way on an excel spreadsheet in response to an agency brief died many years ago, now we can do it all in a matter of seconds through online programmatic channels. Embrace change. I got into data four years ago, I had somebody who took a chance on me and used my publisher contacts to say: ‘I will train you up on data’. Don’t be afraid to talk to people, build your network. The other thing is, DMPs have only been around for eight years or so, and already we’re talking about customer data platforms (CDPs), so DMPs have already become outdated. What’s next? It really depends on the type of platforms or the circuits that people are engaging with. What happens in the future, we don’t know.

One of the speakers at Symposium last year gave a really good example of where the journey of humanity, technology and evolution is going. People were really worried that electricity was going to be the end of the world, look at all the technology that’s come around through electricity and all the jobs that have come out of that. Now we look at AI, and we see the evolution of AI – don’t be afraid to embrace technology. It’s going to explode just as big as electricity has, as far as opportunities go, they will evolve when the time is right and people have enough imagination to bring two ideas together and create a third, that’s the very foundation of what an invention is about. 

Full disclosure: the author of this article attended Adobe Symposium as a guest of Adobe.

Further Reading:

Image credit:Taylor Vick

Josh Loh
BY Josh Loh ON 9 August 2019
Josh Loh is assistant editor at MarketingMag.com.au