Online Privacy Concerns in Digital Marketing Communications

Isabella Zaugg Hansen & Friederike Forsting

Student thesis: Master thesis


The rapid development of technology in the recent years has given rise to new ways of conducting business and marketing communications. It has provided businesses with the opportunity to reach customers through new means of communication. Furthermore, it has made it possible for them to target their customers more specifically through the workings of big data, i.e. using customers’ online behaviour to tailor advertisements more precisely. This in turn has made it possible for marketers to utilise their marketing budgets more strategically.
Technological developments have thus enabled marketers to base their marketing communication on the strategic utilisation of customer data. However, it has also made the process of communicating with their customers increasingly complex, as different parties such as advertising platforms, data processors and other third parties may be interposed in the communication between companies and customers.
The sophisticated use of customer data to tailor marketing communications has – along with other factors - fostered an increase in privacy concerns. Along with the technological developments, the perception of privacy has thus changed. This has forced European supranational powers to take action on this agenda. This led to the formulation of the ePrivacy directive in 2009 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2016. These regulations have made it increasingly harder for marketers to collect the necessary information about their customers, in order to create relevant and well-targeted advertisements.
In this project, we explore how online privacy concerns shape digital marketing communications taking point of departure in the Danish marketing and advertising industry. To investigate this, we adopt an interpretivist, abductive and exploratory research approach, where we combine secondary data with primary qualitative data drawn from semi-structured interviews with twelve digital experts. Our findings suggest that it is of critical importance for businesses to consider privacy concerns and address them. We further propose that it is crucial to focus on the direct line of communication between business and customer to build long-term relationships based on trust. Following our findings, we derive recommendations for businesses regarding how they can handle privacy concerns. Businesses are encouraged to be transparent in the way they treat data and to clearly communicate about it in an understandable manner.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages158