The marketing industry is set to undergo massive changes. Here is why and what is being done about it

Ever since the explosion of the internet in 90’s we have all understood how every bit and byte of data we generate online is captured in order to sustain the most powerful companies the world has ever known. Our personal data, collectively, represents enormous value in marketing dollars. Whilst they have given us free content, we have given up so much more. By now we know all this. But since the advent of the internet and 30 years on, only to add insult to injury, something else has happened: free content is now fast becoming a commodity. Nowadays, news articles are increasingly computer generated and maps and messaging platforms are a dime a dozen. In other words, we keep on giving up ever more in exchange for ever less.

Data consumers aren’t happy either

Surprisingly however, despite ever smarter, more invasive algorithms, the industry remains plagued with inefficiencies. It is estimated that for every USD 1 spent on digital marketing, advertisers only receive less than 40 cents of value, the rest being absorbed by intermediaries. Ever rampant and fraudulent malware and other malicious bots are further adding to the problems currently afflicting the advertising marketplace. To make matters worse, bots and fake accounts (by some estimates going as high as 50%) continue to grow and corrupt the reliability of the data being collected.

When tech, regulation and consumer behaviour align

From data privacy regulations to data ownership rights to the advent of Web 3.0 enabling technologies, the pillars of a new internet infrastructure are already being built to allow for a brand new way our data is to be transacted online. Perhaps more significantly, however, is the way consumers are behaving and what they are wishing. An ever-increasing number of Internet users have resorted to active avoidance of aggressive advertising via the installation of ad-blockers. But it isn’t just ad-blockers that are causing advertisers problems; they also face increasing hostility from internet users who are tired of being targeted with dull and irrelevant ads. Recent research has in fact concluded that individuals either want no ads or relevant ads that fit their preferences.

What if the tables were turned

But what if we could turn the tables on the entire business and on the way it operates? What if instead of companies deploying ever smarter yet more invasive ways of second guessing our next purchase, what if we, as individuals took matter into their own hands? What if we were in control? In this scenario, internet users, you and I, would be given the tools to proactively turn our personal data into useable marketing profiles (made up of volunteered demographic and psychometric attributes). Once stripped off of every personally identifiable data points, these profiles could in turn be targeted and accessed by data consumers (product and service companies), for a fee as well as in exchange receiving for pertinent, even desired content. And what if, to put the cherry on top, these self-generated marketing profiles could be self-verified? If indeed our data is our own and ours to use, it should come as no surprise that some are already calling it “a new asset class”, one that could generate “data dividends” for their owners.

Actors for change

While predicting the speed of change is difficult to predict, wheels are already in motion with several projects already offering workable solutions. Whether it is BraveInvisibly or Gener8, these companies all have 2 things in common: firstly, they reward individuals for the time they spend online, albeit in very various degrees. Secondly, they expect access to users’ data, whether it is simple demographic data or the full array of what can possibly be collected, including cookies and psychometric data. Another example is VETRI, with one significant difference however. VETRI is a privacy-protecting data management platform. Put simply, VETRI functions as an agent acting on behalf of individuals and interfacing with consumers of data (companies, research and market survey hubs etc). In exchange for users allowing access to their anonymised data, companies remunerate them with pertinent marketing content and / or monetary rewards in the form of tokens via its VETRI app.

What distinguishes VETRI are the tenets on which it operates: Akin to the principles set forth by the promises of Web 3.0, VETRI also operates based on the ideas of data ownership, privacy and self-sovereignty. Whilst some of the enabling technologies are still in their infancy and, or facing the scalability hump, such as full homomorphic encryption (FHE), VETRI’s mission is to propose a tool for a fairer data economy and one that can serve as a transitionary solution from web 2.0 to the time web 3.0 comes around.

Legally structured as non-for-profit foundation, VETRI uses blockchain technology to safeguard the integrity of the data being accessed or transacted and for the sake of transparency. Even though the users remain in control of what happens to every byte of their data, the nice thing about blockchain is that it removes the need to trust altogether. Already boasting over 200k downloads and thousands of daily active users. VETRI is constantly adding features to its app interface. Perhaps importantly however, it is VETRI’s ambition for the gradual but full decentralisation of its governance going forward that sets it apart.

“Something’s gotta give”

History tells us that the speed of innovation is nearly impossible to predict. Comfort, however, is to be taken in the fact that it is inevitable. When it comes to the use of our collective personal data, everyone feels abused, marketers and internet users alike. With the advent of the Metaverse and the billions of dollars of investments being poured into it, one cannot help but wonder: If we already resent our browsers today for all their marketing pollution, how likely are we to love it tomorrow when we are fully immersed into it?