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PMG Digital Made for Humans

Big Questions: PMG’s Head of Search, Shopping, and Social Talks Privacy-First Advertising

5 MINUTE READ | August 10, 2022

Big Questions: PMG’s Head of Search, Shopping, and Social Talks Privacy-First Advertising

With privacy-first advertising becoming increasingly important to brands and advertisers across industries, we connected with PMG’s Head of Search, Shopping and Social Jason Hartley as part of our Big Questions series to get his take on the biggest challenges facing marketers in this arena, what he’s excited about, and how PMG is solving for consumer privacy concerns. 

Jason is tasked with overseeing the company’s search, shopping, and social practices across PMG’s client portfolio. In his role, Jason leads the company’s privacy-first advertising initiatives as he works with vendors, media partners, and technologists to ensure PMG and its clients are prepared for the deprecation of the third-party cookie, onboarding data cleanrooms, and staying on top of consumer privacy regulatory action. 

There’s little consensus across the industry on what privacy-first advertising will look like–case in point: the wide-ranging opinions about the durability of unique IDs–but we don’t have the luxury of waiting until solutions are worked out. First, it’s important to recognize that there’s not likely going to be a moment when all the stars align, and we arrive at a global consensus on an approach to privacy-first advertising. Instead, we’ll likely have an evolving system where regulators, tech companies, and platforms push for the solution they believe is best. Realistically, the major players aren’t likely to agree on what “best” means. The second reason we can’t wait is that while the solutions to the post-cookie world are not clearly identified, cookies are going away whether we are ready or not–and that time is coming soon. 

Given the uncertainty, the PMG team is focused first on ensuring we’re getting as much value out of programs that aren’t going away while testing various approaches to navigate signal loss. It’s more important than ever to execute–and elevate–the fundamentals in all channels to ensure marketers aren't missing any opportunities to engage with consumers. Customer experience is central to brand loyalty, which will be increasingly important as first-party data becomes the bedrock that most future marketing efforts are built. After all, an unhappy customer isn’t likely to provide a brand with their personal information, which means that person will never become a repeat or lifetime customer. 

Our approach is centered on three main areas, and we’re focused on finding the right mix for the long term without sacrificing performance in the near term. The first is optimization, which includes data-augmented bidding powered by our proprietary marketing intelligence platform, Alli, audience building, and strong creative. The second is measurement because we believe incrementality testing, media mix modeling (MMM), and customer-based modeling, will all play a critical role in helping us understand the effectiveness of marketing programs despite signal losses throughout the ecosystem. Finally, diversifying channel and partner mix will prevent an overreliance on a limited set of strategies that could be vulnerable to future regulations or platform policies. Maintaining an agile testing mindset will be key in the coming eighteen months, turning emerging challenges into new, privacy-forward opportunities to connect with consumers.

The metaverse, which means different things to different people, would be the most popular answer to this question if it was asked earlier this year, but enthusiasm for it, NFTs, crypto, and web3–which tend to all get lumped together, fairly or not–has waned. It seems pretty clear that we’re following the classic hype cycle trajectory, and we are sliding into the trough of disillusionment. So, it might sound odd that the metaverse is exciting to me now, even more than when we were riding the hype wave. But much of the promise of what it could mean for brands and consumers is still there, it will just require some patience to live up to its promise. Well, patience plus imagination and a bunch of new tech. 

There are industries, like sneakers, that are a perfect fit—for whatever definition you prescribe—for the metaverse. Brands in those industries are going to find a way to participate in an authentic way, and eventually, monetize their presence there. This is almost inevitable as there are only so many chances for an industry to find new revenue streams that don’t require more stores, warehouses, trucks, and everything else it takes to bring a physical product to consumers. There is every incentive to capitalize on this opportunity, and once the first entrants figure it out, it’ll only be a matter of time before others build on that foundation. 

Essentially, the hype cycle of the metaverse is a replay of what happened when apps emerged. Everyone immediately thought they needed to build an app, but most apps didn’t solve a problem or pain point for consumers, so even if they were downloaded, the app was rarely used. However, industries that were a better fit to solve problems made useful apps, while others benefited from the infrastructure and best practices that emerged. Just like apps, the metaverse won’t be a fit for all industries, but just because there’s not a fit today doesn’t mean there won’t be a huge opportunity in the future. It won’t happen overnight, but that’s part of what excites me: It’s a chance for us to be pioneers, creating entirely new products, creative and media strategies. What’s more exciting than that?

Honestly, I’m just as excited about SEO as I am the metaverse, and I’d like more CMOs and brand executives to feel the same. Amid all the uncertainty in our industry, doing good SEO is something you know will help your brand be discovered, will help consumers have good experiences with your brand, and will increase sales perpetually without a commensurate increase in costs. We’ve found that the brands with the best SEO have internal champions outside of the SEO team. This is because while good SEO is a perpetual growth machine, it’s a machine that has to be built properly, which requires resources. Often those resources go to other projects because there isn’t a champion for SEO upgrades, even if the return can be greater. That said, it’s our job to make it easier to understand the technical aspects and the value of what we do.

Early Majority, which was recently founded by Joy Howard. I’ve worked with her in the past and knew her socially when we were both musicians in Atlanta, but that’s not the reason I admire the brand. Early Majority makes “outdoor clothing for all eventualities,” particularly addressing the need for “high-performance, versatility, and gender equality in a category that has traditionally left out women’s perspectives.” 

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Early Majority is built on degrowth principles, as the brand hopes to find a balance in their business, the environment, and their members’ lives. Rather than coming up with increasingly specialized products (that aren’t necessary, but people feel like they need to buy them regardless), Early Majority offers a handful of multi-use products. For instance, Early Majority has created systems that allow women to wear the same clothes throughout their pregnancy. I’m only scratching the surface on the Early Majority mission and the important work they do, but what I love most is that they are trying something truly different.


Posted by Abby Long