Charlie Johnson is VP International at global geo-location data and services company, Digital Element. I recently chatted with Charlie to find out more about her role and expertise, as well as her thoughts on how privacy regulations are impacting the digital ad industry.
Talk me through your role… What does a typical day look like for you?
I begin my working day focusing on China, looking at international business on the commercial side of things. I’m often multitasking while I do this – walking the dog, or dropping the children at nursery.
Then, my focus shifts to calls with customers, the European-based team, and other prospects. At the moment I am speaking with clients and prospects about how Digital Element can help tackle fraud-based businesses and improve security, which is keeping me busy. When the team in the US begins their day, I’m usually then on internal meetings until the evening, finishing at around 8pm.
What’s been your biggest challenge at Digital Element so far and how did you overcome it?
While this was achieved by the entire team, it’s something that clearly stands out to me. In response to a rapidly developing situation, we made the important decision to pivot our business.
The BBC, a client of ours, was earning press around people circumventing IPs and VPN – a challenge to their business model. To solve this – and this needed to be dealt with quickly and successfully – our team of engineers switched focus to how we can help our clients discover where these issues were taking place. A huge number of our clients now use our data to address this, and the decision to change our thinking and plan of action was absolutely necessary.
You’ve been named as one of the ‘Top 50 Women in Ad Tech’ – what advice would you give to other women starting out in the industry?
There is no ceiling other than the one you create yourself, and this is so important to remember. I would encourage other women to keep punching and to continue pushing, because a lot can be earned when you fight for yourself. In this industry, where technology moves on so quickly and the landscape regularly shifts, it is also vital to never stop learning. Every day brings new opportunities to learn, to develop, and to grow, so always remain open and ready for this.
What are your thoughts on new privacy measures coming into play?
It’s nice to see people respecting consumer choice and rights, as both are so important and have been overlooked for too long. It should be a priority to ensure consumers are cared for in this sense, so it’s great that [third party] cookies are going away. And while IP doesn’t have any link to cookies, it can bridge the gap when it comes to targeting – enough that some personalisation can be implemented as needed, without going too far.
What do you think consumers value the most when it comes to personalisation vs privacy?
I think consumers want to be respected as internet users. They don’t want to be treated in a blanket, stereotypical way, but they also don’t want companies to encroach on their private information. There is a balance to be had, and consumers are increasingly aware of how they’re being tracked, and to what extent.
While you don’t want to be targeting people to the tightest of filters, understanding users’ interest and hobbies can enhance their experience. Adding value and personalisation needs to be achieved with careful consideration.
What trends will shape digital advertising this year?
I am expecting a lot of interesting developments throughout the rest of 2022, but it’s clear that privacy regulations are having a huge impact on digital advertising. With more and more privacy bills being introduced, and with GDPR in the back of everyone’s mind, many companies are solidifying their privacy controls.
We’re also seeing ad spend pour into CTV; a result of increased digital TV viewing over 2020 and 2021. It’s clear now that consumer preferences have changed – and the industry has to as well.
What’s next for Digital Element?
Digital Element is working on a lot of exciting projects and we have many more in the pipeline – including more strategic acquisitions, which will add great value to what we already do well. Our latest example is Matchbook, which combines Digital Element’s intelligence with that of Outlogic, which was acquired by our parent company Digital Envoy in late 2021, to tie targetable IP address data, with or without Mobile Device ID, to a Location ID.
This is a deeper intelligence than we’ve been able to offer before and the next evolution of IP. It can be used to deliver more detailed targeting data, without risking compliance with privacy regulations, and build high-quality visitation data for targeting audiences and footfall analysis. On top of this, we’ll be pushing our cyber security offering to the next level. Ad fraud, protecting employees working from home, and cyber intelligence for governments are all exciting areas for the future.