Matthew Birkby: “There's no magic solution that's going to solve identity for you”

“There's no magic solution that's going to solve identity for you”

Long-time listener, first-time caller. Today’s guest on our Identity Architects podcast actually was one of our first listeners. 

In the latest episode of our Identity Architects podcast, InfoSum Senior Director, Enterprise Sales Nick Henthorn sat down with media consultant and gaming industry expert Matthew Birkby. Nick and Matthew dive into the gaming world, how it's evolved today and where it's going, including the potential future of in-game advertising and the role of AR, VR, and XR.

“Identity is going to continually evolve, legislation is going to continually evolve, technology is continually going to need to evolve. And so there's no magic solution that's just going to solve identity for you.”

All Fun and Games

Matthew comes from decades of experience in the gaming industry, most recently leading global media at EA Sports. So, we wanted to drill down and understand more about what is driving the innovation in the gaming space. 

“The gaming industry is incredibly interesting because people have not realized the gaming industry is the largest entertainment industry.” On top of that, gaming companies have been able to build a better picture of their customers than many traditional entertainment companies, Matthew says:

“This audience spends so much time with these products, they're so passionate about them, you start to be able to build up interesting pictures of who players are.” 

Additionally, gaming is an industry that everyone seems to touch at some point or another in their lives, whether they consider themselves a “gamer” or not.

Other industries can learn from the way gaming companies interact with their consumers and treat the first-party data that’s shared with them.

The Importance of Trust

There is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all solution to data privacy or even building your tech stack to protect your data. It's about selecting the right components that make up a solution that will help you going forward. First-party data is an integral part of marketing strategies of today and clearly of tomorrow; what would Matthew recommend every brand and media owner do in 2022 to prepare for the future – cookieless or not?

Matthew thinks that some companies need to “get their heads out of the sand,” and start preparing for what’s next. Too many companies are doing a wait-and-see approach that will eventually catch up with them. He also noted that companies should think about their approach to data collection in general:

“Really think about what you're collecting and why you're utilizing it. Because I think as we move forward, and as legislation changes and adapts, there is going to be pressure for you to be able to answer that question. And I think if you can do that and prepare for that now, I think that puts you in a much healthier place. And actually, as you start to talk with your consumers, your publishers, your visitors, whoever it may be, you'll be able to have a more honest conversation with them.”

Looking Ahead, and Looking Back

Part of creating a better future for data privacy industry-wide is reflecting back on lessons learned from a career in the industry. There are things that worry Matthew (and many others) about the state of privacy in advertising. 

“What keeps me awake at night is that we haven't learned the lessons of the last 20 years – when it comes to human behavior or to what we do with people's personal data. We are always looking for ways around things. And I worry that we haven't learned those lessons.” 

This isn’t an individual problem he says, but something for the whole industry to consider. 

“If I'm really blunt and honest with the broader marketing community, and if we stepped back and we looked at what we've done over the last 20 years, and why we’re being legislated in one form or another, we just did some things that were a bit weird.”

In-Game Ads: The Next Frontier or Something to Be Wary Of?

As an avid gamer (and perhaps fan of dystopic novels), Nick asked Matthew if he thought in-game advertising would evolve to get to a place like Ready Player One. While there are some hints that companies want to take their in-game advertising that route, Matthew isn’t as sure as some that we may be in for an overwhelming advertising experience. 

“If it is disruptive to the experience in-game, or disruptive to what you would expect to see in-game, or there's no value exchange, then it's possible that the advertising in-games crumbles in some form or other, or at least doesn't scale the way it could.” 

That doesn’t mean that we won’t see much more immersive advertising in games moving forward. 

“Will we move to Ready Player One? Probably not in the next five to ten years, but what I would say is, I do think that AR, VR and XR are going to be a thing. I'm personally quite bullish on it – but it will take forever. And then suddenly it will be here.”

Coming Back for More

Nick and Matthew were able to delve into a ton throughout their conversation, and hope you’re able to take a listen. 

Thanks Matthew for joining us on Identity Architects!