September 25, 2017

Battle Of The Century

Get ready for what could be the PR, lobbying, and regulatory battle of the century as the Goobook (Google and Facebook) duopoly start to realize what the new regulations of the EU (European Union) may mean to their businesses.

In May, a new regulation, called the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) will go into effect. More importantly, something called the ePrivacy Regulation may also go into effect. These regulations will seriously limit the collection of personal information by online entities. In fact, they may cripple substantial parts of their businesses.

Right now, Goobook are essentially in the surveillance business - a business that yields tens of billions of dollars in revenue annually. By tracking us across the web, collecting information about us, and monetizing that information by selling it as targeting data to advertisers, Goobook have essentially taken over the online advertising industry, reaping 77% of online ad revenue in the US.

But things are going to change. Many commentators have suggested that the new EU rules will not materially effect Google and Facebook. Not so says an opinion from a law firm hired by Digital Content Next (DCN) to analyze the likely effect of the ePrivacy Regulation on the duopoly (the doo-wops?)

I have had a look at the opinion and it is startling.

Below are quotes from the legal opinion as well as quotes from the SVP for Government Affairs at DCN.
"... much of the... data on which Facebook and Google currently sit could lose its value because it could not be used for online behavioral or targeted advertising purposes..."
"...Google and Facebook’s ability to collect and use consumer data will be dramatically curbed. They would be restricted from targeting advertising based on data from electronic communications services such as WhatsApp, Gmail and Messenger unless they receive consent from all parties involved in the communication. As currently drafted, Facebook would likely be prohibited from using data transmitted from the clicking of a “like” button for the purpose of targeting advertisements."
"...Google and Facebook would be required to get separate consent from consumers before attempting to collect and use browsing history or “personal” data...What’s more – companies would not be allowed to bundle consent for multiple purposes nor require consent as a condition for using a service."
"...companies that collect and use data at smaller scale (such as solely on their owned and operated domains) are likely to be less impacted by this Regulation. These companies will be significantly less challenged in getting the required consent for their limited purposes. As a result, companies that create trusted, premium digital experiences, enjoy direct relationships with consumers and do not rely on tracking consumers at such a large scale may find new leverage and opportunities in the marketplace." 
"...the ePrivacy Regulation could conceivably prohibit any data transmissions by Facebook or Google between connected IoT (Internet of Things - BH) devices."
" matter what happens, it is highly likely Facebook and Google will need to make major changes to their online behavioral and targeted advertising practices in order to comply with forthcoming EU privacy laws and regulations."
One thing to keep in mind is that the ePrivacy Regulation is currently in draft form, the final language has not been approved, and the regulation has not yet been adopted.

As I said in BadMen
"The key thing to remember is that most of the major players in online advertising have a big stake in surveillance marketing. They will fight like hell to protect tracking."
I expect that in the next six months we will see a battle royal. Google and Facebook will use every trick in the book to try to influence European regulators to take the teeth out of the ePrivacy Regulation. Get ready for an avalanche of horseshit about it being anti-democratic, anti-American, anti-free speech (it's already started) and every other spurious argument they and their advertising industry apologists can pull out of their asses.

When confronted with the unprecedented power and influence of Goobook, we will discover if the European regulators really have balls or if they're just grandstanding.

Meanwhile advertisers, who are already in shock over the fraud, corruption, waste, and non-transparency in online advertising, and have flocked to Google and Facebook as presumed "safe havens," are going to get another shotgun blast to face. They've been living in a fantasyland and it will soon start crumbling.

This is gonna be the best show in town.

September 21, 2017

Apple Right, Ad Industry Wrong

This piece from the Type A Group Newsletter was very popular this week. I am reprinting it here today.

As usual, the tin-eared aristocrats of the ad industry are on the wrong side of an important issue.

Apple is planning to release a new version of its Safari browser with new cookie-blocking technology, called "Intelligent Tracking Prevention."  It will put strict limits on the ability of websites and advertisers to track us across the web.

According to digital expert Don Marti it looks like Safari has built a set of features that will help protect us from the kind of tracking we don't like, while not screwing up features we like such as single sign-in to favorite sites (my words, not his.)

Apple has said  
“...users feel that trust is broken when they are being tracked and privacy-sensitive data about their web activity is acquired for purposes that they never agreed to.”
Damn right. I even know a guy who wrote a book about that.

Of course, all the major advertising trade bodies are soiling their shorts at the thought of not being able to spy on us everywhere and know everything we do online. They are not satisfied that people are so disgusted with online ad practices that 600 million web enabled devices are now armed with ad blockers.

Listen to this horseshit from a consortium of ad trade groups including the 4A's, ANA, and IAB:
“Apple’s unilateral and heavy-handed approach is bad for consumer choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love...Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful."
What planet do these imbeciles live on? Do they really believe anyone is going to buy that crap?

Here is a study published last year that reports that of 13 different forms of advertising studied, the top 8 most disliked were all forms of online advertising.

Furthermore the argument that Safari's "Intelligent Tracking Prevention" is "...bad for consumer choice..." is laughable. Any idiot who prefers to be followed around the web by assorted squids and slugs is perfectly welcome to download dozens of free web browsers that are more than happy to spy on everything we do.

Every impartial study I've ever seen says the same thing: Online advertising is the most disliked and most distrusted form of advertising. One of the primary drivers of this situation is tracking.

When are the "leaders" of our industry going to get their heads out of their asses and realize how they are destroying the integrity of web advertising by not supporting initiatives like Apple's that are trying to establish responsible guidelines for online advertising?

September 19, 2017

Why Online Advertising Needs To Be Regulated

Last week I did a video interview with Australian ad site Mumbrella. Here is an excerpt from that interview that discusses the issues raised in my new book BadMen: How Advertising Went From A Minor Annoyance To A Major Menace. 

To watch it, click here.