In Toronto, Marketers are Preparing for a ‘New World Order’ for Consumer Data

Canadians are grappling with privacy, too

Adweek's Toronto Brand Stars summit honored 33 Brand Stars in the city. - Credit by Rick O'Brien
Headshot of Marty Swant

Digital marketers in Canada’s creative hub say conversations around online privacy won’t be confined to Europe.

According to Caroline Papadatos, svp of global solutions at LoyaltyOne in Toronto, a “spectrum of empowerment” for consumers and how they view data has changed in light of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations, which change the laws for how marketers can collect and use consumer data.

The changes might also mean consumers don’t want their data used, creating new needs for data agents or even a “data tax.” She said brands need to help customers as they enter into a “new world order.”

“I think the world is going in the direction that Europe is going,” she said. “And our role is to anticipate amount of control.”

The remarks came on Tuesday night in downtown Toronto during a conversation about how data is upending the customer experience at Adweek’s Toronto Brand Stars summit and celebration. The series, which spotlights the talent and creative in various cities, honored 33 Brand Stars in the city, which is currently undergoing explosive growth in everything from creativity to artificial intelligence. Among those honored was Toronto Mayor John Tory, who said the city needs to take advantage of its time in the spotlight.

Rick O'Brien

“When we were talking to Amazon, one of the things they were very interested in is the creative class here, not just about talent,” Tory said. “They wanted to know creativity, and they wanted to know about our arts and culture, as well as more granular thing transit and housing.”

That sentiment is true across the rest of the country as well. Speaking with the CBC last month, Ann Cavoukin—whose Privacy By Design concept was an inspiration for GDPR—said the EU’s new policies now make Canada’s own seem inadequate in comparison.

Like those in the U.S. and elsewhere, Canadian companies large and small that are found to be in violation of collecting or misusing European citizens’ data could face hefty fines.

According to Shaunna Conway, a technology marketing leader at Deloitte Canada, existing users of ad-tech companies such as data management providers aren’t allowing for enough visibility. She said brands need to put in place strategies that show exactly how they view and use data—which will help them from crossing a “red line” with consumers. That would be aided by helping people understand how their data is used and why it creates value to them as consumers.

That new world order of data is also creating opportunities for how brands are helping customers. For example, Rogers Communications, Canada’s largest wireless provider, has been using predictive analytics and machine learning to help customers with their complaints. Chris Dingle, senior director of data science and products at Rogers, said that machine learning partially contributed to a significant (53.5 percent) decline in complaints.

Michael Dill, president and CEO of Match Marketing Group, said the need for transparency is growing, and emerging technologies such as blockchain are helping to create a culture of trust and transparency between brands and consumers—something that blockchain enthusiasts often tout as a key benefit of a blockchain system can show exactly where data comes from and who owns it.

“If the consumer knows what they’re getting out of it from the beginning, it becomes more of a handshake,” he said.

Rick O'Brien

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.