Advertisers and agencies around the world are increasing their focus on data management, according to a new report, which highlights their efforts to reduce reliance on walled gardens and better protect consumer privacy.

The Digital Trends 2019 Report from Adobe was based on a survey of more than 12,800 marketing, advertising, e-commerce, creative and technology professionals; just under half (47%) were from Europe, a third from Asia Pacific (32%) and 14% from the US.

The main priority of IT professionals, cited by 63%, was on improving the way they collect data and consolidate it onto a single platform. Alongside that, more than half of marketers intended to prioritise the better use of data for more effective audience segmentation and targeting.

At the same time as putting their own house in order, there was a significant degree of impatience with having to cede control over data to the “walled gardens” of external advertising platforms; for 44% of advertising agencies, this was their clients’ number one headache.

Reducing that dependence will enable brands to build more complete audience profiles, said Adobe, which will in turn allow them to deliver more personalised and consistent customer experiences across channels.

But that in turn brings other issues to the fore: 28% of marketers said they were kept awake at night by the challenge of personalising customer experiences without violating consumer privacy.

Generally, however, companies appear receptive to data protection laws such as GDPR, with 89% agreeing regulation has had a positive impact on their business. That said, a quarter (24%) of European companies – three times more than in any other regions – reported such laws have had a negative impact on their business.

Where data is involved, AI is rarely far behind these days and Adobe noted that more than one-third (36%) of brands now use AI to better serve customers, a 50% jump in just one year.

Data – and its responsible management – is an essential component of brands’ efforts to differentiate themselves and get closer to customers. “Marketers and IT teams alike understand this and are taking on a more unified approach to data to make the most of their technology investment,” observed John Watton, senior marketing director at Adobe.

Sourced from Adobe; additional content by WARC staff