Refusal of cookie consent, ad-blockers, incognito browsing and the prevailing view that we marketers are up to something means our audience is going dark. In this month’s Green Room we ask five of our Rockstar CMOs if we should be afraid.


The impact of GDPR varies between organizations, but as global marketers, in whatever territory we in the crosshairs of the privacy movement. Refusal of cookie consent, ad-blockers, the Brave browser, incognito browsing and the prevailing cynical grumble that we marketers are up to something. It all has had an impact on how we engage and how we measure the performance of our campaigns.

Let’s face it, it’s our own fault, lazy remarketing has exposed the data that is being shared and its creepy implementation has freaked a lot of people out and the pendulum has swung.

But what’s done is done.

Our audience is going dark.

But, are we afraid?

This is the question for the Green Room this month and we sit down with Ted Rubin, Christine Bailey, Wendy Bryant-Beswick, Robert Rose and Casey Peterson.

In the age of dark browsing, ad-blockers, cynicism, legislation and very real concerns about privacy – what do you recommend marketers focus on?


Casey Peterson

I love the term vanity metrics because it’s very descriptive of how valuable they are.  What marketers should focus on has not changed significantly – building an owned content experience that is valuable and engaging for customers or users.  Facebook, Twitter, or whatever we’re talking about today can be valuable channels for building audiences, but it should the interest of driving people to owned media. 

Has there ever been ANYTHING that actually mattered more than driving people to your website (Or other online purchase experience) and then pushing them through the sale funnel to buy?  Where and how we interact on social has changed and will continue to over time, but its place in the customer journey is still firmly in place.

Casey Petersen is the Vice President of Marketing and Analytics at Photofy, and has been a leader in digital marketing for retailers and CPG’s for over 15 years. Read more about Casey.


Ted Rubin

From a marketing perspective, it is becoming more important than ever to create and keep loyal customers, so I suggest marketers focus on Customer Experience with their Marketing. Something being foolishly overlooked. It is time to start taking a fresh look at, and measuring the downside of our marketing… the marketing that is driving otherwise loyal, and potentially loyal customers away. The over-use and abuse of email, re-targeting, and programmatic ads. 

In addition… creating the understanding and mindset that simplicity is the future of retail… players combine media, payment, and channel into a single solution will have a huge advantage over those that aren’t able to deliver a seamless experience. Retail isn’t a store anymore. It is a method of engagement… start thinking Omni-Present instead of Omni-Channel.

Ted Rubin is a leading social marketing strategist, keynote speaker, Photofy CMO/advisor, MC/host for Brand Innovators Summits… Speaker, Author, Provocateur Ted is our resident rock star. Read more about Ted.


Wendy Bryant-Beswick

It’s tough out there and we have had privacy challenges with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) given our operations overseas. My suggestion is to focus on transparency and education. If you want to look at GDPR or any of these other issues creatively, then think about educating your customer on how they can communicate with you on their own terms.

There’s a fun way to do this: Position with empathy. That means you’re reaching out to ensure your company is communicating with your customer through their preferred method. We position re-opting in as “being in the know” and educate our retail staff to explain that it’s not about constant promotions. We truly want to make sure our member is receiving important information for their financial well-being.

Educate your customer on the why behind GDPR or other privacy regulations. Put them in the driver’s seat because they will have more control of their data and choose what they will receive. You can be that literal about it. These extra steps ensure your customer sees your company as being responsible, transparent and sensitive to their preference. Those that opt to see your information will be your more engaged consumers and brand advocates.

Wendy Bryant-Beswick is an award-winning marketer with 20 years’ experience in the financial services industry. She is currently VP of Marketing at Service Credit Union. Go backstage with Wendy.


Robert Rose

What should they do?  Lean into data collection, and measure trust instead of transactions.

GDPR and the fundamental shifts in personal data management and privacy aren’t now (nor have they ever been) an issue of legal policy or technology. Looking at the strategy of how marketers manage consumer data purely from a legal and/or IT perspective is a little like asking the local geologist about how to manage the impending disaster from a meteor strike.

Marketers will not legalize or “software” their way out of the privacy and data challenge. They must innovate, design, and create their way into the privacy and data challenge. The one thing that is absolutely clear is that we marketers have, perhaps, the biggest opportunity in more than a decade for content to truly become strategic.

You see. Audiences ARE customers

The key to this innovation isn’t to give up on using personal data to optimize content and marketing strategies. It is rather to begin to care much more about the data we ARE being given. Marketers need to lean in to the more information they are receiving and treat digital visitors, leads, and opportunities with the same care that they would (or should) give customers. In other words, marketers might ask themselves, “If we treated the data of audiences/leads with the same care that we treated the data of customers, what would that marketing system look like?

So, instead of the various vanity metrics, and gnashing of ROI teeth, today’s modern marketer can begin to measure trust instead of transactions. They can look at developing treating a subscriber (an audience member) as they would a customer from the beginning.  They can lean into the use of (what we’ve begun to call) “emotional data.” This is data that is given gladly, willingly, trustingly because of the value they receive, rather than being scraped or gathered unwillingly.  In today’s world, a willing, trusting and expectant audience may be, quite simply, the most important strategic asset that a company might create.

As the Chief Strategy Advisor for the Content Marketing Institute, Robert innovates creative and technical content marketing strategies for his clients. An early internet pioneer, Robert has more than 15 years of experience, and a track record of helping brands and businesses develop successful web and content marketing strategies. Learn more about Robert, as we went backstage with him in our very first issue.


Christine Bailey

I opened a workshop last week by asking the question “do you prefer personalization or privacy?”  Has GDPR made your life better or worse?  The room was polarised between the joy of less spam and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) on all the great offers they no longer heard about.  There’s no doubt that it’s harder than ever to do marketing in the current climate, but hey, we’re a resilient, adaptive bunch…..! 

Think about the entire customer journey and be guided by customer insights at every stage of the journey.  The scattergun approach might have produced some great vanity metrics in the past, but now the focus should be on quality rather than quantity, outcomes not output. 

Unless the right people are engaging with us, they’re never going to move further along the buying cycle i.e. from reach to response to revenue.  Once they’ve become customers, we have a wealth of insights at our fingertips and if used wisely, can be used to develop and retain our most valuable customers. 

Dr. Christine Bailey is CMO of Valitor, an international payment solutions company headquartered in Iceland. Forging a career in the tech sector, she’s led European marketing functions for Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems and was recently voted #1 woman in tech by B2B Marketing. Learn more about Christine in backstage Q&A here.


We are not afraid of the dark

So there we have it, no, we are not scared of the dark, but we need to focus on what’s important, create seamless experiences, educate our audience, focus on what’s important and we will create a willing, trusting and expectant audience that will be the most important strategic asset that a company might create.

You can learn more about our panel of Rockstar CMO’s in our Backstage Q&A section.

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