Can privacy tech save advertising?
Peter Klein of MediaWhiz, writing in Ad Age: Why
Do Not Track Will Make Online Advertising Better
Anti-tracking legislation will
make online advertising more focused and relevant to
consumers. It will set into motion a more innovative
and prosperous era of digital marketing, dominated
by a healthy respect for consumers' wishes about how
their data are collected and used, and innovative
advertising that meets their needs.
Good point. Placing ads on relevant content
can help everyone, but tracking individual users is just
creepy. Making the creepy side harder is just
what advertising needs. Klein writes,
Track will force marketers to be more creative in
their campaigns, tapping into legally available
data—users' expressed interests. This will
foster deeper and more relevant connections between
brands and consumers and benefit online advertisers
in the long run.
It all goes back to the signaling problem. User tracking isn't just a problem because it sets off people's creep radar. It's a problem because, as soon as ads start being targeted to the user, they stop pulling their weight. (part 1, part 2.) The more targeted that advertising gets, the less well it carries out its essential role of sending a signal about the advertiser's intentions and resources. In media where user tracking is impractical, the users give advertising more attention.
In the long run, there are a couple of other points to keep in mind.
First, better privacy tech isn't just good for advertising, it's good for the content creators. When advertisers have to target by interest, they have to look for relevant content, instead of falling down the adtech rat hole and chasing the desired user onto the cheapest possible page. All but the bottom-feeder content sites are likely to do better under an improved privacy regime.
Ricardo Bilton for VentureBeat, in How
Do Not Track could destroy the Internet as you
know it, quotes Marc Groman, the director
of the Networking Advertising Initiative, who
Behavior-based advertising is absolutely
critical to the long tail....And if that goes away,
I don’t know how most websites are going to monetize
their content. Fair point, but I won't miss FunnyJunk.com.
Are any sites really both funding original content
and dependent on behavioral ads?
Second, DNT is a nice start for privacy tech, but it's only the cornflakes in the complete breakfast. Browsers have some design features, left over from the dot-com 1990s, that might have seemed like a good idea at the time but that feed the privacy problems of today. Two of these misfeatures are information leakage in the User-Agent header and the policy for how the browser handles cookies and scripts from third party sites. There's an interesting proposal to fix the second one, but much work remains to be done.
And now that we all know that privacy tech is good for advertising, maybe we'll have more interest from forward-thinking ad agencies in making that happen. Ad agency-sponsored Internet privacy lab, anyone?