Regulatory changes to data privacy in Australia is posing challenges to marketers. The Martech Weekly’s Juan Mendoza, our guest editor for this Australia Spotlight edition, says it also offers opportunities for brands to build a position of trust in the market.

This article is part of a Spotlight series on data and privacy in Australia. Read more

If I could boil down the push to privacy across the Australian marketing industry, it would probably be this number from WARC’s research into consumer privacy attitudes in Australia: 82%.

This number represents the share of consumers who are worried about their online data privacy.

Here’s another stat: 30%.

This one reflects another reality. It’s the proportion of consumers happy with their current experiences of online personalisation, experiences that are often offered as the basis for data collection.

The focus of this Australia Spotlight is “the push to privacy”, which isn’t an accurate view of the situation in Australia. It’s more like a violent shove over a precipice of change, with 82% and 30% representing a duality for Australian marketers. There’s growing scepticism from the public about why brands need so much data, along with the ability of marketers to use data to create better experiences.

This was underscored by high-profile data breaches of two iconic Australian brands, Medibank and Optus, in late 2022. Both exposed vast troves of personal information, stoking a public outcry, government intervention and the replacement of driving licences for upwards of five million Victorians.

The data breaches were the trigger point for a flurry of privacy-focused shifts in Australia. But not all brands are reacting in the same way. From what we’ll see in this Spotlight series, brands and the marketers they represent are responding to change in data privacy in a variety of ways.

By turning privacy efforts into a positive value-add for consumers, dealing with the now-not-yet changes to the technology landscape and working the slow crawl of culture change in the marketing department, there’s a lot to unpack.

The changing privacy landscape in Australia

One of the most impactful areas of change is recent government regulatory and compliance change.

Regulatory change is usually a slow-moving beast but the Australian federal government is now taking quick steps to protect the privacy rights of its citizens. In November 2022, parliament approved one of the world’s most severe privacy penalty bills ever introduced, allowing the government to fine companies for 30% of revenue during the period of a privacy breach – A$50 million or three times the value created through data misuse.

In late February, another major shift happened across the industry: the introduction of an updated privacy bill. Breaking new ground, this bill establishes the concept of an individual’s right to sue a brand for misuse of data and enforces the right for consumer data to be erased.

Taking a positive and proactive approach to data privacy

Brands that aren’t prepared for more privacy-conscious marketing are now realising that privacy is not something that only the IT team needs to reckon with. But not all marketers are on the back foot – some are seeing the opportunity in change to create a value exchange built on trust.

REA Group, one of the largest real estate marketplaces in Australia, has created a proactive approach to data privacy. By installing its own privacy experience division, building a better value exchange using personalisation and enhancing its consent platform, REA Group saw an opportunity to showcase to customers how much it values consumer data, leading to a 20% year-on-year increase in monthly active members.

“Maintaining brand trust is central to our core value proposition of making the property search easier through personalised consumer experiences,” says Andrea Farrell, REA Group’s head of personalisation and privacy. To her team, privacy is not just a guardrail but the foundation to building trust which leads to more effective marketing.

Beyond the technical challenges of managing platforms and data, REA Group’s approach to privacy presents an opportunity for marketers and advertisers to build a unique trust relationship with its consumers.

Investing in the right capabilities is key

While some brands are innovating, other marketers sense that the latest shifts to privacy in Australia can feel like a tax on marketing – less data to do targeted advertising, the rising costs of maintaining data systems and heavy-handed fines for non-compliance.

Chris Brinkworth, managing partner of Australian-based privacy-focused marketing consultancy Civic Data, says that to navigate the maze of changing rules and regulations, there are some key ways in which marketers can prepare.

By investing in the right data technology like data clean rooms, building capabilities for consent orchestration and the proper use of first party data, marketers can escape most of the headaches as restrictions come into place.

The now-not-yet of data and technology

The technologies that enable so much of marketing are stuck between sudden changes to tracking and analytics and the long wait for cookie depreciation. In the now-not-yet interim, marketers must respond to today and plan for tomorrow.

For instance, in a kind of “platform self-regulation”, Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, ITP 3.0, and iCloud private relay are all serious moves away from allowing third parties on the Apple platform, moves that are all very recent.

Additionally, Google’s now-not-yet promise to shift away from third party cookies with Chrome is on the horizon – yet another major shift that impacts how marketers can access consumer data, changing what they can collect, creating second-order effects in targeting, segmentation and measurement.

One area where marketers can bolster their analytics abilities in the face of privacy change is by looking outward to new methodologies and practices.

Sam Redfern, the global marketing data measurement lead at Canva, recognises that while Australian marketers are beholden to cookie banners, targeting restrictions and new privacy controls that hamper attribution efforts, there are ways to gain deep insights into media effectiveness and consumer behaviours.

Redfern explains that marketers must think about both accuracy and explainability in attribution to enable them to forecast results and translate insights for marketing teams to adjust their strategies. Marketers can do this by proactively shifting out of multi-touch attribution models to advertising experimentation and media mix modelling to see both the incremental contribution of each channel while testing the effectiveness of each in isolation, without the heavy-handed need to collect vast amounts of consumer data.

First party data – a new avenue of growth

And while attribution is one side of dealing with privacy change, the shift to first party data collection by Australian marketers is a new source opportunity. Billy Loizou, APAC VP for customer data platform Amperity, suggests that the move to first party data for advertising is not only a way to better protect privacy but is becoming a new corridor of growth.

One of the major challenges most large organisations face is not having a central view of a customer’s identity. But a challenge can also be a path to value. By investing in identity resolution capabilities and centralising identity into a customer data platform, brands can start to truly understand who their customers are.

This allows marketers to quickly access a more holistic view of the customer to find new opportunities, personalise the customer experience and drive new revenue opportunities such as identifying high and low-value customers and mitigating churn.

The slow crawl of culture change

Outside of brand and technology risk, the push to privacy’s most powerful impact on marketing is culture. I liken it to a slow boiling pot of frogs: as consumer values shift, the boardrooms of companies also need to reckon with privacy as a core business priority. But, often change comes way too late.

Sarah Miles, senior privacy officer at the ABC, says privacy is no longer a risk mitigation equation for Australian executives but rather – looking at it from the perspective of customer and staff retention, and cost savings – a better way to drive adoption for privacy-conscious investments in marketing.

Miles goes on to suggest that by finding a value proposition, building a business case and championing better ethical frameworks, marketers can find opportunities for growth and value in otherwise overlooked areas.

According to a 2022 Edelman Trust Report, 60% of people said that alignment to values is the leading reason for someone choosing a role. In an Australian economy where it’s hard enough to find marketers with technical skills that require the use of data, building an ethical approach can deliver results in staff recruitment and retention alone.

However, this change can take time. Marketers are usually focused on growing their brands and don’t often have time or resources to overcome external pressures like privacy change. This is why culture change needs to be looked at through the lens of months or years. Pitching the positive returns on privacy-positive investments is one thing but developing a careful and balanced view of data ethics in the marketing department is another.

For Aussie marketers, all roads lead to privacy

The challenges to data privacy over the past six months alone are cause for a lot of soul-searching for marketers as they consider their ethical framework for data privacy, while balancing this with the ever-constant imperative to drive growth.

But there are opportunities within change, whether that be building a trust position in the market by proactively investing in data privacy, exploring new technologies to measure effectiveness or investing in culture change in the marketing department.

For brands that get the privacy and growth balance right, there’s a world of new value to tap into. The push to privacy in Australia is here – are you ready for it?