Consumer Privacy from the Perspective of a Digital Marketer

Posted by Wes Mills on May 07, 2014

Privacy, especially on the Internet, is something that’s prevalent in the minds of just about everyone. And when the finger isn’t being pointed towards certain government organizations, people are quick to get out their pitchforks and head for marketers and the organizations that “sell your data.”

But it’s nonsense, for the most part. I’ll offer up insight in the context of marketing on how it can incredibly beneficial for both consumers and businesses.

Spoiler alert: We actually don’t even care who you are. 

What data we actually care about

Any professional marketer likely has far too much data to single out individual people. And we’re talking about marketing here, so what’s the value in doing that anyway?

When it comes to consumers, I don’t care what their name is, who they’re in a relationship with, or what they did on Spring Break back in ‘03. That’s a little too personal. And to be honest, there isn’t much value in trying to figure out all of that.

What I do care about is demographics and psychographics like:

  • Interests
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Values

Targeting at this level turns everything into just a numbers game. Marketers always want the largest reach for their target audience, which means you’re dealing with thousands of individuals.

Using Facebook as an example, I may only care about a target audience if they all live in a certain zip code, own a house, are married, and the audience size is greater than 10,000 people. Once my ads run, I can analyze the key performance indicators, then test different demographic metrics and see which combinations perform better.

Consumers become numbers in spreadsheets and the goal is to improve those numbers with testing and optimization.

What information Google and Facebook give marketers

This may come as a surprise to some, but Google and Facebook don’t give detailed information on individuals. In Facebook’s Power Editor and ad builder, you select which demographic metrics you’re targeting, and the only thing Facebook gives you is a potential size of your audience.

Google AdWords may be even less intrusive than that, since most of the emphasis is in the search term and not the individual searching with it.

You can, however, target people who have already visited your website. Remarketing can seem intrusive, understandably — but it’s not possible to see any visitor’s entire web browsing history.

Google goes a step further and applies a threshold in both Google Analytics and AdWords that won’t show any data if the sample size isn’t large enough.

Everybody wins

The traditional rhetoric you hear may lead you to believe that no consumer likes targeted ads. But the data and results tell a different and more compelling story.

I’ll put myself in the shoes of the consumer to conceptualize my point. I’m 23, male, and my browsing history and Facebook indicates that I like cycling. So browsing around the web, naturally I’d expect to see ads about cycling deals, upcoming cycling events, etc. I would find these relevant and some may even inform me of an offer that’s available on a product I was considering purchasing.

Now what if highly targeted ads didn’t exist, and the ads I saw were about baby products, retirement homes, and low-APR mortgages? The ads become annoying, irrelevant, and from the businesses point of view, they aren’t reaching the customers they need to.


From the standpoint of a marketer, consumers’ privacy isn’t confiscated in any way. Marketers tell large advertising platforms like Facebook and Google what kind of people they want to share their ads with, and Facebook and Google make it happen. They then give the performance results back, so the marketer can make adjustments as necessary.

The goal for marketers is that consumers can see product and service offerings that appeal to them, while a business gets a higher ROI because the targeting is more efficient.

Have you tried advertising online?

There’s something to gain from digital advertising for every business. Whether it’s reinforcing your brand, engaging with your target audience, or spreading awareness about a promotional offer.

If you own a business, or are a part of a business that wants to venture out on the digital advertising frontier, drop us a line here. We’re trusted by Google, and we know what it takes to produce meaningful results on all digital advertising platforms.

[Image credit: g4ll4is]


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Submitted by Bert Powers on Thu, 05/15/2014 - 8:12pm

A rare concept in todays cyber world, where it seems everything is for sale.

Submitted by Wes Mills on Fri, 05/16/2014 - 10:09am

I agree — it does seem everything is for sale. Thanks for reading, Bert!