There’s no better, more ethical, more empowering, or future-proof way to collect and use data than the way we do it. Period. End of story. 

Media and advertisers are freaking out over the ongoing ad tech apocalypse. Google’s eventual destruction of third-party cookies will be the kill shot, but Apple is already beating the industry to a pulp. Meanwhile, new federal legislation dropped last month, the Banning Surveillance Advertising Act, which is pretty self-explanatory. 

Change is coming. And it should. 

The big ad tech players say they have viable solutions, because what else are they supposed to say? Concepts like “hashed emails” and “universal IDs” promise to stitch our data together, while tracking us across the websites, TV platforms, and stores we visit. These are merely cookies of a different flavor, backdoor ways to maintain the status quo. 

If these workarounds escape regulation, it won’t be for the benefit of us and our kids, but because of the lobbying clout of the companies with the most to lose. It’s tobacco and opioids all over again.

If I shop at Home Depot, I have no problem with them knowing what I bought. We have a 1:1 relationship. Same goes for Netflix or Bloomberg or Ticketmaster. I’m cool with them knowing what I do within their walls or even guessing things about me based on what they know. But that’s it. Keep it between us, above board.

Our data comes from polls people voluntarily answer on websites they trust. They read an article, we ask them a question about it, then a couple more. They give us permission to store their answers before seeing the results. The only privy parties are the respondent, the site they visited, and us. Nothing travels.

We use the anonymized answers for good, sharing them with business and civic leaders to affect change. We publish a ton of research (like this email) for free to make people smarter and more empathetic. We help reputable publishers and advertisers understand their audience and grow their business – responsibly and transparently.

Most CMOs I know welcome the ad tech apocalypse. Murky rivers of data that land ads on subpar websites, based on something I clicked on three days ago, isn’t great for anyone except the people who control the rivers. Marketers want to actually market again. 

Maybe surveillance advertising will survive. CivicScience will be fine either way. 

But let’s hope it doesn’t.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

Consumer confidence is officially in the toilet. Our Economic Sentiment Index just had its lowest reading of all time – which covers a span of over 10 years. Consumer attitudes had been pretty ugly since October, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine took things to a new, abysmal level. Inflationary fears are through the roof, while even views toward the job market fell for the second straight period. Optimism for the U.S. economy right now is bleak. There’s no way to sugarcoat it.

Consumers really, really expect corporations to take action against Russia. I always tell our clients, “Don’t do socially-responsible things because it’s good business, but it’s good business to do socially-responsible things.” This is another one of those – in spades. An astonishing 81% of U.S. adults believe companies should stop providing products or services to Russia right now. The results are similar across political parties, all age groups, and any other slice of the population you can think of. As I’d hoped in my rant last week, Americans are more united than we’ve seen them since I started this company.  

COVID is losing its grip on the American psyche. A subplot of our dreadful economic sentiment numbers is the fact that they seem to have finally decoupled from people’s pandemic fears. For the better part of two years, you could be certain that consumer confidence would rise and fall as COVID cases rose and fell. For now, that interdependency seems to be over. Pandemic concerns are reaching lows we haven’t seen since last June, when vaccine uptake was burgeoning and Delta wasn’t a thing yet. On the bright side, you’ll be able to watch news coverage of the war while sitting at a hotel bar again. 

*** We interrupt this program for a brief commercial announcement ***

We unveiled our highly-anticipated COVID Recovery and Consumer Spending Tracker product this week. It’s the stuff in this email, but on gallons of steroids. We designed it to predict changes in consumer behavior and spending – across categories and brands – as the war in Ukraine rages, COVID subsides, inflation and supply chain disruptions continue, and workforce trends evolve. It’s also our first “product” that doesn’t require access to our full platform. Learn all about it here.

*** Back to the show ***

Supply chain shortages have taught us a lot about how people buy cars. Economic headwinds have done little to temper demand for automobiles, perhaps because things are still backed up. Twenty-six percent of people say they’ve run into inventory shortages when looking to buy a new or used ride, up from 21% last year. Americans are remarkably split on what they’d do if the exact new car they want is unavailable. Thirty percent of people would wait. Nineteen percent would buy the car used. Eighteen percent would buy a different model from the same manufacturer. SUV drivers are the most particular, by the way.

​​​Clutter causes stress and stress causes clutter. The minimalist trend has leveled off, although a growing number of people say they’re thinking about it, especially the 18-24 set. We’re also seeing a larger percentage of Americans who say they plan to do spring cleaning this year, compared to last year. All of that stuff should help, as our data shows a significant and increasing correlation between clutter and mental health. But here’s the problem: Are you stressed out because your house is a mess, or is your house a mess because your life is stressful and who the hell has time to clean the house? I bet it’s mostly the latter. Either way, I hope you can find time for spring cleaning this year. Or just go on vacation.

More from the CivicScientists:

  • Airbnb vacationers are more likely to drive to their destination and love their job;
  • Russia’s attack on Ukraine has profoundly affected our collective emotional well-being;
  • Seasonal affective disorder is real and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

These were our most popular questions this week:

Answer Key: Top decile; 1; Share!; Countryside, all the way; Most definitely.

Hoping you’re well.


Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up hereIf you are new to this list, check out our Top Ten to get caught up.

In case you’re wondering, this is an informal email I write to CivicScience clients, friends, and other VIPs every Saturday morning. If you’re getting this, you’re either one of those people or were referred to me by one of them. I always love your comments and feedback.

CivicScience PodcastLinkedIn Twitter | Email Archive