ECA meets: Daniel Pike, Chief Product Officer, Covatic

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Ecommerceage met Dan Pike

A young but rapidly growing ad tech business, Covatic grew from the conviction that there had to be a better way to provide content to consumers—not only content they would love  but also content delivered at the right time, via the right medium and in the right place, all without compromising user privacy. Working with a group of academics at Oxford University, the team at Covatic initially developed its proposition to focus on content recommendations. 

Now, as privacy is firmly at the top of the advertising agenda, Covatic’s offering looks to be one viable answer to the industry’s prayers.

We caught up with Daniel Pike, Chief Product Officer, Covatic to find out more. 

First of all, tell us a little bit about how Covatic started and what the business was set up to do.

At Covatic we create new technology that addresses the age old issues around customer privacy and the way their data is used. We’ve developed software that sits inside a brand’s smartphone app and uses the phone’s sensor data to help deliver a better service to that app’s users. For example, notifications can be useful but they can also be really annoying, especially if they arrive when you are in the middle of something important. Our software can help the app understand these moments better and target notifications to times, locations or contexts when they will be welcomed and acted upon. A podcast recommendation received just as you start your rail commute will be much more welcome than the same recommendation when you’re settling down to do some focussed work or relaxing in front of the TV.

That’s quite timely for 2021, isn’t it?

Indeed! We’ve always placed a big emphasis on delivering relevant content but in a private by design way and now privacy and relevance are the industry’s big talking points. Apple’s iOS 14.5 has given people the option to opt-out of third-party tracking across the web and a huge majority of people are opting out. We already knew third party cookies were on their way but this from Apple has ratcheted the issue up yet another notch and these are probably just the early stages of a substantial shift. The fact that the public have essentially voted against tracking shows just how urgently the ad industry needs to address these changes.

What is Covatic’s role in the quest for successful advertising with consumer privacy?

The crucial aspect of our offering is that the information which informs the advertising never leaves the phone. It completely resolves the issue of sharing personal data, which many people are understandably reluctant, or no longer able, to do these days.  We ensure no personally identifiable information ever leaves the device.

This month we have launched A-type, our bespoke solution to the ad-industry’s ID and privacy challenges. It creates rich segments for digital advertising without needing to track a user across websites or apps.

So what is A-type and how does it work?

A-type uses our existing on-device processing to allocate groups of users to relevant third-party socio-demographic data, such as CACI ACORN or Experian MOSAIC segments, without exposing any form of ID. This not only creates highly relevant and sellable audiences but is also future-proofed and sustainable. It is designed to be GDPR, CCPA and ATT safe and doesn’t need users to login, which means clients can make their entire user base addressable.

What problem is it looking to address?

Our offering is a credible, long-term solution to the challenges of an advertising ecosystem in which the power of IDs and third-party cookies is considerably diminished and in which user privacy is given the significance it deserves.

It gives marketers the chance to seamlessly revise their approach to targeted, contextual and personal ads. There is so much nervousness around the end of cookies, and when you add in the Apple ATT issue, advertisers who rely on third party data are rightly nervous about how to maintain impactful and effective advertising. Many are turning to cohort-based solutions, such as Google’s FLoC, are planning to rely on contextual page content, or will be turning to their own first party data. However, those solutions each have their limitations, so introducing our on-device, real world intelligence, presents a compelling fourth option.

What do you see is the future for customer privacy in advertising?

The people have spoken and have roundly rejected tracking. I don’t see there being any coming back from that. In years to come it’ll seem an alien, antiquated concept that brands were able  to track people in such detail as they travelled around the internet. But advertising too will evolve and smart companies like ours will continue to come up with new approaches and ideas that will give it a strong and viable future, ideally a step ahead of public opinion and fully consistent with developing regulatory and competitive environments. . 

The future for customer privacy is on the right track to being exactly where it should be: focused on the consumer first and foremost. There are certainly several ways brands can continue to engage with the right people at the right time in a way that protects their personal data, it will just need a shift in attitudes and the adoption of new ideas and strategies.

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