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Transparency and Data: The Struggle for Brands in 2021 You know that feeling when you're driving, and someone in the car suddenly asks to change the radio station? That's how brands feel about transparency and data.

By Joey Hodges

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Data has been a hot-button topic for brands, publishers, and agencies since it emerged as a necessary tool of the trade, but it has been especially prevalent in 2021. Unfortunately, there is not enough concrete direction to find the right solution between customers, brands, and data privacy.

While it might seem like this is a new topic, organizations have struggled with data issues for a long time. Never in history have companies had so much access to data, and that growth has not been accompanied by new regulations or rules that help companies move forward. This has led to an increasing amount of privacy issues with no immediate consequence for companies who abuse it.

Global regulations, death of the cookie and iOS14

Europe's experience in combatting privacy issues, with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), has helped lead the way to increased regulation around data privacy. This has pushed Canada, California, and Brazil to create similar organizations to help develop guidelines around data privacy.

Cookie usage has paved the way for marketers to establish user-profiles and find targeted customers since its inception. However, with Google being the last of the browsers to announce that they're officially dropping third-party cookies, marketers have shifted to alternative methods to evaluate, coordinate, and deploy first-party data to find the right content for the right viewer.

The new iOS14 plays a role in data transparency as it introduces the anti-tracking feature. This will enable users to control who can track them on their devices and what kind of information they'll share with these third parties, promoting privacy for consumers. The new iOS14 will continue to change how marketers have been tracking their customers over time, emphasizing content, context, and user description to drive the performance that companies need.

Related: Establishing Trust in 2021: Innovation and an Imperative for Embracing Data Privacy, Transparency and Security

New updates contribute to a knowledge gap

Publishers, agencies, and brands feel the impact of the various changes and privacy regulations consistently popping up without guidance on adapting them into their organizations. They have to collaborate with others in the industry to find new ways to tackle these issues or get left behind because they don't have enough exposure to these conversations, scale, or infrastructure to move forward with these changes.

This gap in priorities or knowledge between publishers, agencies, and brands has always existed. For years, agencies and publishers have worked to educate clients to look beyond surface-level metrics and evaluate deeper site-level metrics. Yet, we still have brands measuring campaigns based on a cost per thousand which shouldn't be a performance metric. This gap exists in areas beyond performance metrics, such as getting brands to move to a mobile-first mindset, even when all the available data shows that's where they should be.

The shift to more creative content

The extensive data and technology systems necessary to adapt to these changes will ultimately cost companies a lot of money and human capital. In a cookie-less world where everyone is fighting for your attention, brands without big first-party data setups will need to rely on producing unique content that resonates with their audience and gives them a reason to come back for more.

Even brands with the most robust data infrastructure will need to focus on staying creative with their content and creating a recipe for desirability. Creativity is the connective tissue between the user and the product. The worst media strategy and placement can still do amazing things with the right creativity.

Our companies need to look internally and break down the silos that exist. Integrating the power of content and data can be significant when managed and leveraged holistically. This might include a shift in how you pass off your creative assets, finding unique ways to integrate the data you have to create more compelling campaigns, or even completely changing how you produce content and review results.

When it comes to data, it all comes back to the need for transparency within organizational structures, the need for transparency from agencies with brands on how they use data, reporting, and various technologies, and the need for transparency from publishers on what's happening with the content they create.

Related: Privacy, Transparency and Auditability — How the New Generation of Blockchains Are Spurring Adoption

Moving forward in the world of ever-changing policy and data

There are many challenges and questions that businesses need to face as they look for the right way through ever-changing policies and new data rules. It can be challenging to know the best course of action when everything seems unclear, but every company moves towards these common desires – to grow their business, create something meaningful, and invoke change. By working together honestly, transparently, and sharing our collective struggles, we can work together to drive all our businesses forward.

Joey Hodges

Founder & CEO of Demonstrate

Joey Hodges is the founder and CEO of Demonstrate, an independently owned, award-winning, full-service marketing and communications agency. With over 15 years of multifaceted brand marketing and integrated communications experience, Hodges is a seasoned communications professional.

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