Marketers need to take a more proactive approach to engaging consumers around privacy, with simplified language and a clearer demonstration of the value exchange among the main priorities, according to a leading digital thinker.

John Montgomery, North America chairman of WPP’s GroupM Connect, discussed this subject at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) 2019 Annual Leadership Meeting.

“Over the last 12 years, we have failed to demonstrate the value exchange between advertising and data collection,” he said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: GroupM’s Montgomery details internal complexity of GDPR-driven agency practice.)

 “But we have had every opportunity to do that in our privacy policies. Every time there’s talk of new legislation, our privacy policies become thicker and more difficult to understand.”

Consumers have become “numb” to lengthy policies, he proposed, because they realise “they’re getting a utility from this and they just say, ‘Oh, whatever. I’m just going to sign it.’”

Firmer regulations coming into force – such as the European Union’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) – also demand a heightened focus on these issues.

“There really is an opportunity in our privacy policies to write them [differently],” he said. “Maybe [they’re written] by a copywriter. Or a lawyer. Or maybe there should be a video.”

Montgomery explained how airlines did this successfully with pre-flight safety checks. Virgin America, he reminded the IAB audience created a great video that’s been viewed – voluntarily – nearly 14 million times.

“We should use our communication skills, because we're backing ourselves into a corner. We are fighting back, but what if we used our communication skills to really explain privacy – to be transparent, to be fair – and tell people what kind of value exchange they're getting,” said Montgomery.

That sort of exchange, Montgomery said, could happen on two tiers of density, with a copywriter, for example, putting together a simplified explanation, which could then link through to detailed legal documentation.

GroupM has experimented with this approach, and while Montgomery noted that it will require careful legal consideration, it could have tangible value for marketers as they seek to connect with consumers more fully around privacy.

“Our lawyers were a little bit uncomfortable with it, but there’s something in there that I think is worthwhile … And just through great communication and transparency, we can start addressing this now.”

Sourced from WARC