Summit Snapshot: Ad-Supported Streaming and Meeting Consumer Privacy Expectations

November 5, 2021

Big Idea: As consumer streaming of content booms, that portion that is ad-financed must be privacy-proactive in ways that enhance the overall user experience.

During the Digital Advertising Alliance’s 2021 Virtual Summit, we assembled an innovation panel dedicated to exploring how privacy and trust can be conveyed in such data-driven advertising experiences. As we look at these innovations, we want to make sure that we use the lenses of transparency and control which have served consumers and the industry well over the past decade-plus and find ways to incorporate that ethos into this new world. Consumer convenience, trust and other dimensions of engagement were discussed and we believe it sets up the conversations we all need to be having to protect the advertising medium and the consumer experience. Read on.

Suffice it to say, streaming is an increasingly relevant facet of the online marketplace made even more prevalent by the COVID-19 pandemic, and relevance to the consumer continues to be greatly valued. During the Summit session, experts Holly Grochmal, general counsel, Pandora; Adam Markey, director of product management, platform, Roku; Christin McMeley, senior vice president, deputy general counsel, and chief privacy and legal information security officer, Comcast Cable; and Brandon Seltenrich, vice president, privacy tech, ViacomCBS, came together to discuss streaming’s present and future state. I had the opportunity to moderate.

These are the folks who are delivering some of the most favored content and services that all of us are reliant on every day, as I can personally attest – even more so in the past twenty months! These are the folks that are working hard every day to help bring us get those great experiences in a responsible and ethical way.

Love for Convenience Notwithstanding, Streaming Customers are the Same but Different

Image - Adam Markey, Roku, at DAA Summit 21
Roku’s Adam Markey discusses customer characteristics at DAA Summit 21

“[P]eople in the household and household influence are becoming a standard in the way we start to measure media and other things,” Roku’s Adam Markey said on video streaming and the metrics it necessitates. “In the digital world, it was easy to measure a click, now we have to start measuring the household and the people within the household, and how that ultimately works for the the advertiser.”

Brandon Seltenrich of ViacomCBS added, “From a privacy perspective, it’s identifying these new slices of our users then understanding how we can, in the right ways depending on domestic or international regulations, service our marketing partners, our ad partners.”

Pandora’s Holly Grochmal noted something else entirely from her streaming customers – unique from passive listeners: a desire to share. “[W]ith streaming you also have the social context,” she noted. “I’m sure some of you have made playlists, shared them with your friends and family, very different from traditional terrestrial radio, where you didn’t have that social context aspect.”

Streaming… Everywhere, and on Multiple Devices

Image - Christin McMeley of Comcast Cable at DAA Summit 21
Comcast Cables Christin McMeley on multi-device uses

Each of the panelists also agreed that though streaming may be household fare, it inescapably skews in two ways:  younger users dominate, but also users are often multi-device in behaviors.  What does today’s multi-device use look like?

Christin McMeley, from Comcast Cable, said, “It’s not that you’re watching two different things, but you might be on social media while you’re watching something, or you might be looking up statistics while watching a baseball game.”

She also noted that preference varies at-home versus elsewhere. “If I’m home and I’m accessing something, I’m going to my big TV and if it’s [the content is] available then I’m pulling it up there, versus pulling it up on my iPad and mirroring it or watching it on my iPad,” she said.

Similar variation exists in audio, Grochmal said. People classically indulge in audio in the car, at work on the computer, and especially on mobile devices. “[B]ut we’ve had a huge uptick in consumer electronic devices: [smart] TVs, home speaker devices. And what we’re seeing is these numbers are sticking, and the adoption rates are much higher than what we would’ve thought. With the pandemic… the acceleration of the usage of those devices has been significant.”

Getting it Right: One of the Most Important Things to Consumers is Convenience… and Trust

Image - Brandon Seltenrich of ViacomCBS at DAA Summit 21
Brandon Seltenrich of ViacomCBS, “Give them the same experience across everything.”

Consumers want similar experiences across devices. Streaming music in the car? They value the ability to pick up where they left off on a different device once they get home.

Christin McMeley said, “[Comcast] did a survey recently, and... the majority of respondents did want the devices to be connected, and to work together. They wanted the ease of use. I know personally, I do. If I'm watching it in my home, then I’m traveling and I'm staying at a hotel, I want to be able to have the ease of having the device recognize me.”

“It’s about the continuity of the experience,” Brandon Seltenrich said, “and the expectation that what I did on my phone is going to move with me to my tablet or my computer or my car.” Consumers aren’t concerned with the ‘how,’ only that “they’re interacting with their brands, they don’t care about which device. Give them the same experience across everything.”

But it’s not so simple, because of privacy expectations. “There’s a large number [of customers] that do want the devices to share the data and work together, but there’s still some concern out there about data sharing,” McMeley said.

According to Grochmal, this inspires brands to ask themselves “How are we being fair to the consumers? Are we building that trust?” in addition to questions of convenience such as password sharing and device continuity.

McMeley again cited company research: Consumers may be unsure what privacy and security mean – and how they are related and yet differentiated – but they do agree on one area: “But what is resonating is control,” McMeley again. “Control and trust are really big concepts for them, and it does extend to that younger audience. They care about control and trust.”

“This is the ultimate complexity paradox,” Seltenrich said. “It is really, really, really hard to provide an intuitive, easy and meaningful experience to users on all of their different devices... that provide them the control, the trust in our brands that we can do what they’re asking for both them and all regulation and legislation out there.”

“We’re still very much working on getting this and giving it to our users,” he continued. “So it’s part education, part listening to our consumers, working with our marketers and our advertising partners to assure we’re doing business the right way for everyone, and then creating the solutions.”

Enabling Trust: Providing Control across Different Platforms and Evolving Technologies

Image - Holly Grochmal of Pandora at DAA Summit 21
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Pandora’s Holly Grochmal

Depending on the device, and the platform, consumer control and effect can be different.  What type of flexibility does the industry need and still meet consumer expectations?

From Pandora’s perspective, challenges remain. Holly Grochmal said, “It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, it’s looking at a particular instance and trying to get that privacy notice as closely in time as the consumer is activating, and also abiding by different space requirements.” This can be difficult work, but “using the DAA Principles as principles and thinking of transparency and consent and notice… is really helpful to think about as new technology is evolving.”

DAA wishes to acknowledge the editorial contributions of its summer (and fall) associate Paul Lozaw.

Back to Top