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Usercentrics’ Adelina Peltea on the Emerging Trend of Privacy-Led Marketing

May 1, 2024

professional spotlight adelina peltea

For decades, marketers have thrived on a seemingly endless supply of user data. Third-party cookies, once the cornerstone of targeted advertising, are crumbling under growing privacy concerns and stricter regulations. 

On the other side, consumers demand more control over their information, and tech giants are responding with privacy-focused updates. This shift presents a golden opportunity to build trust and forge deeper relationships with your customers.

If you’re wondering how to move toward privacy-led marketing, this is your chance to hear it from an expert! I had the pleasure of talking to Adelina Peltea, CMO of Usercentrics, about her journey from productivity to privacy, how marketers can become more privacy-focused, and why she thinks privacy is one of the hottest growth industries of the decade.

This interview is part of G2’s Professional Spotlight series. For more content like this, subscribe to G2 Tea, our newsletter with SaaS-y news and entertainment.

Warm-up questions

What's your favorite beverage? When do you enjoy it?

I used to live in Asia, so I developed an appreciation for black tea and Oolong. I like to try different ways of having them and from different sources. I enjoy the feeling of sipping something warm throughout the day. 


What was your first job?

I used to work for Kantar Millward Brown, one of the leading agencies for brands, media, and communications. I was on the qualitative research side, which opened my eyes to understanding insights and how to apply them to product launches, market expansion, advertising testing, etc. It gave me a nice landing in the marketing world, and I learned everything independently afterward. 

What's your favorite software in your current tech stack?

I like everything that enables collaboration and communication. So, anything from Miro to Pitch would be my favorites. They are simple yet game-changing. 

What problems at work make you want to throw your laptop out the window?

I'm told that I bring a calm energy. It's imperative, especially as leaders, to show your team how to keep a cool head and go through it. It doesn't mean nothing takes you up or down or frustrates you, but you can quickly calibrate. To do that, I have a side of me besides my business side, which I balance a lot with meditation. So I will never throw the laptop! I appreciate that there are ups and downs in life, business, and everything, but it's about calibrating fast and being a calm oasis for people.

Deep dives with Adelina Peltea

Washija Kazim: You have an extensive background in SaaS and product-led growth, particularly in the SMB market. What was the key turning point that led you toward privacy-led marketing and Usercentrics? 

Adelina Peltea: If I look at my entire SaaS career, I've been in it from the beginnings of cloud computing to the whole wave of SaaS software that was hot for more than a decade. I was always on the productivity side. Every business I was in was substituting email and spreadsheets with a perfect UX solution dedicated to a specific problem: forms, inventory management, recruitment software, you name it. 

Over the last few years, I witnessed it becoming a commodity. There are so many solutions out there. It's so easy to build them, and there was so much money in the system, but then came the crisis, and the valuations dropped. It got me thinking, “Did we over-index on productivity and UX?” It was a good decade to ride, and we all work better because of these tools. But what's the future? 

Data privacy got my attention because it's such a fundamental thing. As we build and shape the internet, which is still new in how we share data and how businesses use data, we're entering a new level of maturity. Of course, it started with regulations and protecting people's rights. But people are also waking up and realizing it’s important. They are self-educating, becoming more conscious about what's happening, and more demanding. 

It's such a fundamental thing. If we shape this well, we will make the internet a better place. And that got me really excited. So it's a really good industry to be in. It's going one step below in the pyramid, which is an enabler for many things. And, of course, we all like to have an impact. It resonates with me and probably with many other people.

I call this the new way of doing business, “privacy-led marketing”. It's a new approach to marketing and growing revenue by collecting and respecting data consents and preferences. Consumers who trust brands to handle their data responsibly are more likely to convert. Data privacy is here to stay and will only evolve further, so we need to do business online in a different way, adjusting everything from strategy to tactics and tech stack.

Given your diverse industry experience (AI, fintech, big data, etc.), can you share how privacy concerns differ across sectors and how you had to adapt your marketing approach as Usercentrics' CMO?

Data privacy is a fundamental human right. To enable this, we need to look into two things. One is technology. You need data privacy solutions for what's possible on the web and apps. We offer consent management platforms (CMPs) so businesses can easily collect and manage users’ consent. We also offer preference management platforms, enabling businesses to keep track of how people want to receive communications from them, such as how often, on which channels, on which topics, etc. These solutions exist, and you need to keep up with technology and data privacy legislation - and luckily, these solutions cover both aspects. 

The other thing is how people embrace technology. People tend to be more permissive about something new. We started by being very tolerant of the internet, but now we are quite cautious about which websites can use our data and how. We still see this initial permissiveness when using AI, for example: “Oh yeah, I'll have a chat and disclose all sorts of stuff and let it crawl my website.” It's too new for people and puts them in what I call the excitement of kids in the candy shop. But then comes the maturity stage, always. 

So, I'm looking at those adoption curves and maturity curves. And yes, they differ a bit for each industry from this perspective, as does technology and people's eagerness for something new. But the fundamental need is the same. 

“We always say data is super important for businesses, and data is the new oil. However, as individuals, our online identities are also very important to us.”

Adelina Peltea
CMO, Usercentrics

What are the biggest challenges you have faced as a leader in the data privacy industry? What experiences and skills have helped you overcome them?

As marketers, we constantly interact with people and their data online. However, the way we approach marketing has evolved quite a lot from the big data days of getting as much as possible to now being more data-conscious and respecting people's preferences. 

Throughout my career, I have been in touch with legal teams about what's compliant and with tech teams about different solutions for these things. Ultimately, as a marketer, you just want to drive the business's revenue, right? It was only lately that I started to appreciate that it’s a competitive advantage to ask for and respect consented data. As internet navigators are getting more sophisticated, we need to respect that. The marketers will be the first to get this. They'll have a lot to win before it becomes table stakes. 

I greatly respect Apple for using privacy as a competitive advantage. They showed that it worked; people care if you do it right and simplify it. Technology is essential for enablement. But also, the mindset is shifting, and I'm still learning how to do this.

“My challenge is to learn and lead by example on what it means to do marketing in a data privacy world. I would love to be a driving force for the entire marketing scene.”

Adelina Peltea
CMO, Usercentrics

I read your post on LinkedIn that said, “Data privacy is the hottest industry of the next decade." Why do you think that’s the case? 

First of all, there's a lot of what I call wind in the sails. There is legislation that is helping businesses like ours succeed. From the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 to the Digital Marketing Act (DMA) this year, we see a significant shift. 

For example, Google encourages advertisers to use CMPs like our solution. So that helps; it increases the market size. It's an amazing industry to be in. Then, Europe was the first player from a legislative perspective. And now, more and more regions are adopting this. You have it in California, India, and Brazil, and it will be bigger and bigger. And as I said, people started caring, which also helps.

So, I think we are in a good place where it's not just us pushing against the wind. We are now witnessing a new maturity level for the internet in terms of how we do transactions and how we collaborate between individuals and businesses online. That's super important. 

And yeah, the kids in the candy shop thing, right? When the internet was still new, we were all putting our data here and there. And then we realized: the internet never forgets! These businesses share their data all across. Even today, with GDPR in Europe, I still get emails from people I have never spoken to or businesses I have never interacted with. But that's going to really start turning now.

So privacy is the hottest industry for me because, while improving productivity is nice, we’re missing out more on building this conscious internet with a better way of interacting and handling data.

“It’s not a yes or no: have all the data or have no data. It's about which kind of data will be used for what purposes and by whom.”

Adelina Peltea
CMO, Usercentrics

Let’s pivot to some industry trends. What are some of the key factors driving privacy-led marketing in the digital age? How do you see this concept unfolding in the coming years?

Apart from the ingredients I mentioned – legislation and people becoming increasingly available – another one is technology development. We see more and more technology coming to support privacy-led marketing. 

Second, is the mindset and the education of businesses on why it’s vital to get the trust of your website visitors or app users. 

For example, in my previous company, we launched this landing page to book a demo, a classic, right? We had a data privacy consultant working with us, and he suggested we put terms and conditions in place and [ask] if customers consent to receive XYZ. I see the value of it, but it's not something you're used to, especially compared to how we were doing marketing before. So we need to re-educate ourselves, and we need solutions that have this built-in: if you have a form, you should have something about collecting consent right within that form builder. 

“Companies must learn only to collect the data that matters and create great experiences around that instead of treating everything as important.”

Adelina Peltea
CMO, Usercentrics

With that in mind, can you share some success stories of companies that grew significantly while prioritizing user privacy? 

The most important thing is that it's not just yes or no on consenting; it's about that granularity - which data, for what purposes, and shared where. And while most of the world is still at the first stage, which is just collecting consent – and some still don't do it – we take it further and enable granularity, analytics, etc. It's like optimized consent. We have quite a few customers, and we let them do A/B testing and optimizations and all sorts of things, like granular categorization, where to use it, and so on.

We are also evolving with the market. As I said, you need to keep up with the needs, the technology, and what's new. So there’s still more coming. 

Reflecting on customer successes, do any challenges and opportunities come to your mind for brands trying to implement privacy-led marketing practices?

The basics are just to make sure that it’s a custom fit for your business — it should look like your brand and integrate it really well in the user journey. What comes next is for businesses to understand that by doing this well, they get the trust of their visitors, users, shoppers, whatever they are.

It’s still new, and businesses are only now realizing that if you are a trusted brand, you get more consent and also more users, buyers, subscribers, etc. They are learning that giving transparency and control to users brings more visibility and opportunities to interact with them.

“If you use data well, and especially if you collect consent contextually, you have a higher consent rate because then people know they want to do a specific thing. It makes more sense than collecting all information from the first time someone lands on a website.”

Adelina Peltea
CMO, Usercentrics

With the growing trend for personalization and customer insights, how can companies effectively ensure data privacy and build trust? Where do they find the balance between using their data consensually and ensuring they provide a personalized experience?

I think we also have examples of personalization that get a bit cringe. So that's exactly the point. You choose only the relevant information. You don't need all the information to personalize everything, and that's why I'm insisting on making it contextual. If you meet someone in real life and they just know all these weird details about you in a non-contextual way, you'd be skeptical, right? The same goes for online interactions. We’re just used to it happening, but it's not alright at all.

The years before were all about big data insights. But then we got to the point where we questioned, “Do we really make use of all that?” And, more importantly, “Do we make the best use of all that?”

Also, collecting a lot of data comes with costs, which makes other industries that offer data storage flourish. But if you think back to the core of marketing, how do you provide a perfect experience? When you try to apply these principles, you think more contextually, which makes you respect people's preferences more. So, I don't think we're losing. On the contrary, we can do more with better data. We are getting more sophisticated and smarter rather than just taking everything and providing weird experiences. 

Learn more about building the perfect privacy experience from Usercentrics’ CEO Donna Dror.

In your experience, what are some of the top emerging technologies and solutions enabling privacy-compliant marketing?

We are the leaders in the consent management industry with 85,000 paying B2B companies. But that makes you wonder. There are millions of businesses with a digital presence. Where is everyone? Why are they not taking care of how they collect and manage consent in a world full of data privacy regulations and users demanding their privacy be respected and to be in control of their data trails? And why are these businesses not putting more users and their preferences at the center of what they do to earn their trust?

Visitors still notice general mistrust in the system. If there's GDPR out there and they’re still getting spammed from websites, or they click on consent banners but still get weird advertising, or they talk to a friend in real life and then get ads on a certain platform for it — it all makes them wonder. 

We still need to show users that we respect their consents and preferences. And that will provide a lot of value. So technology is there, adoption is following, and then market maturity is what we're entering now. 

I was saying in the beginning that GDPR was in 2018, and now, DMA is in 2024. The DMA legislation says that the big tech out there, like Google, Meta, and so on, also need to support the ecosystem by encouraging all their businesses, advertisers, and publishers to collect consents for all the data used and shared. That's why we’re seeing more marketers now being interested in how to do advertising in a world where data privacy needs to be respected, how to do email marketing in this world, and so on. But hey, even I'm learning about how to do privacy-led marketing, right? It's a whole new way of doing business. 

Did you know about Google’s cookie crisis? Learn how it affects advertising and MarTech. 

What advice would you give to aspiring MarTech professionals interested in privacy-focused marketing? Are there any books, resources, or people to follow on social media, etc., that you recommend for further learning? 

I think there are bits and pieces of useful content everywhere at the moment. I would say keep an eye on Usercentrics. We’re going to prepare quite a lot of content that will help with this education for marketers on how to do privacy-led marketing, ensuring business growth while respecting the data privacy of their users and buyers. 

For example, we launched a podcast recently called Consented, where we started talking about things like this. You can find it on Spotify. And we'll have more and more things, like a course that is coming soon. 

Incredible insights! Finally, if a brand is trying to tap the unknown of privacy-focused marketing, where should it start?

First, look inside your company and see how you do things. Are you aware of the tools you’re using or the data that’s flowing? Is it compliant? There are ways to check that. For example, we have a tool that scans websites and apps and produces compliance reports. There are also all sorts of data privacy consultants or agencies to help you with that. We have 4000 partners who do just that, especially for SMBs that don't have the in-house talent for such processes but also for enterprises. 

In addition, ask yourself, as a marketer, how you want to be treated when you are a user versus how you do it when you're on the other side and want to grow your business. Can you find that space in the middle that's good for both? It's not all or nothing; it's not about using all the data or no data. It's about being in the middle, using data wisely, and crafting the best user experiences while respecting data consents and preferences.

Follow Adelina Peltea on LinkedIn to learn more about privacy-led marketing.

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Click for a TEAchable moment.

For more expert takes and lessons from trusted leaders, explore our library of industry insights.

Usercentrics’ Adelina Peltea on the Emerging Trend of Privacy-Led Marketing Usercentrics’ CMO says privacy-led marketing is the key to winning in today's data-conscious world. Learn how to adapt and gain a competitive advantage.
Washija Kazim Washija Kazim is a Sr. Content Marketing Specialist at G2 focused on the IT management and Fintech persona. With a professional degree in business administration, she has written for industries like SaaS, ad tech, and e-commerce. She specializes in subjects like business logic, impact analysis, process mining and modeling, data lifecycle management, software deployment, digital banking, and cryptocurrency. In her spare time, she can be found buried nose-deep in a book, lost in her favorite cinematic world, or planning her next trip to the mountains.

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