How CMOs can prepare for the consumer privacy revolution

The C-suite - with CMOs at the center - need to establish new methods for evolving technology, marketing, privacy and regulatory issues.

In brief

  • This video features Erik Larson, EY; Amy Summy, EVP & CMO at Labcorp; and Alisa Bergman, Chief Privacy Officer at Adobe.
  • Learn what CMOs need to understand in order to thrive in today's cookieless world.

Ever since the General Data Protection Regulation heralded the great consumer privacy revolution, brands and marketers knew that a massive tidal wave of regulations would soon hit our shores. Even with the recent announcement that the most popular web browser would delay eliminating third-party cookies until the end of 2024, the smart move is to start coming up with replacement options now.

Is there a misconception of what privacy is or what it should be? Is there a compliance bias that you think CMOs need to overcome?


We believe implementing data privacy requirements shouldn’t be viewed as an obligation but as an opportunity. It can even be thought of as a competitive differentiator in the experience brands provide to their consumers. We really think this is a moment where CMOs can reimagine how they think about privacy and really think about it as the chance to make a great first impression with your users. It helps you build trust and deliver a mutual exchange of value. I often say that good privacy is good business. To your second point, we think this is the opportunity to flip it around and see it as a chance to make a good first impression and think about the experience with your users as consumers take more agency over their data amid regulatory and technological changes.

As a CMO in the healthcare industry, how do HIPAA and broader privacy regulations inform how you use customer data?


Our brand promise is providing information to help make healthcare decisions. Data is very central to our value proposition, to our customers and Labcorp. We are in a highly regulated industry, governed by HIPAA and a lot of other regulations, including privacy and security regulations that are coming into marketing. That doesn't mean that we can't innovate and serve our customers. Securing customer data is part of our value proposition, our differentiation. When COVID came, it was interesting to see how the healthcare landscape changed, but it really didn't change what our obligation to the customer was.

During COVID, everybody was sharing their information very freely; we all know who's been tested, who's been vaccinated, etc. Everybody needed data and information results in real time. What we had to do is we had to stand up websites. We were standing up new reports, integration with apps and new tests to market within days of the demand. You can think about a regulatory environment, privacy concerns that consumers have, and if you have a great value proposition, you should be able to make it work.

You can think about a regulatory environment, privacy concerns that consumers have, and if you have a great value proposition, you should be able to make it work.

Even though cookies are not going away until the end of 2024, what should the industry and CMOs be doing to find better alternative solutions?


I love the way Amy described the intentionality of the brand promise and how it relates to privacy. It's an opportunity to really take this extra time and make sure that your foundations are super strong. So starting with that intention, making sure that you made a call on how you want privacy to be reflected in your brand promise and then lining up your data strategy to support your brand strategy, ensuring that you have the access to the data you need, and only that much, and only for the time period you need to keep it in order to deliver on the brand promise. To make sure all that stays in sync, now's a great time to reach out and strengthen your relationships with technology counterparts as well. Marketing and technology are so interdependent, but we don't always spend the right amount of time building that bridge and maintaining that infrastructure inside of our personal relationships.

How have your respective companies dealt with challenges of alignment and what you did each day to overcome them and move forward?


We always say that privacy is everyone's responsibility; it's not just the privacy's team. We say privacy principles are from Venus and engineering rules are from Mars. Everyone needs to understand how each other thinks and speaks about these issues. What I mean by that is, in terms of the privacy principles, you have a right to be forgotten. How do you turn that into time bound, specific, actionable requirements that you drive through an engineering stack? Those are the kinds of examples where everyone needs to learn each other's language to be able to be sure that we're speaking in a meaningful way to each other and really bringing to life privacy requirements throughout the organizations.


Our mission is to improve health and improve lives. At the onset of the pandemic people wanted information faster and to be released publicly and pharmaceutical companies wanted to know information about patients and populations. A lot of these needs have great reasons for them, but we would weigh everything against the patient and whether this is improving their health and their lives.

What would your takeaway be for the right approach for this new privacy first landscape?


The cookieless world has caused us to say marketing basics matter; marketing 101. We have a saying; show me you know me and show me you care. It's about relevant content and great experiences. Marketing one-on-one will get us through and help us be better for our customers.


Good privacy is good business, which really brings to home the point that all privacy laws are really built around user's interests first, and the best interest of your users will likely be good for your business and aligned with privacy laws. If you understand consumers cultural attitudes towards privacy as well as what they want from you, that will help you unlock a great on-brand user experience. To that agility point, I would say in privacy, the only constant is change. It becomes critical to be able to develop an agile and flexible approach that can evolve with the changing conditions.


I'm going to double down on something Amy referenced in passing, which is that it's a team sport. It’s an opportunity for marketers in particular, who are often viewed as the advocate for customers to let everyone else in on the game and to make organizations consistently across all of the functions, become advocates for their customers by contributing to the privacy agenda in particular, but the marketing agenda overall.

This article was originally published by Ad Age Studio 30; it has been updated to reflect the latest delay to phase out third-party cookies. The video was filmed prior to the latest announcement to phase out third-party cookies.


The key to unlocking the best user-experience for your brand is understanding consumers’ cultural attitudes towards privacy.

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