At its core GDPR is about giving back users control of their personal data and online privacy, and in essence that sounds great. No more being chased around the web by that one pair of Stan Smith’s you looked at buying two weeks ago, right? But before May 25th hits and we all go crazy blocking everyone from using our data, let’s have a think about what a completely data-free internet might look like.
The first thing we need to remember is that GDPR is not an ad-blocker – just by not allowing anyone to use your personal data it does not mean that you never have to see an ad again. If there is an ad call on a website, then you can be assured that someone is going to put an ad in it. What it does mean is that the ads that you do see will be less targeted and therefore less relevant than ever before.
As an experiment, I browsed the web for five minutes in incognito mode on Chrome, and the first banners that I saw included ads for car insurance (I haven’t had a car since I moved to the UK), Disneyworld (I have never thought about travelling to Florida), security alarms (I don’t own a house) and high heeled shoes (I promise I’ve never looked at buying a pair…). The point is that I was being targeted at random, with no rhyme or reason. This is what happens when brands don’t know who they are talking to.
So what? You don’t click on ads anyway I hear you say, so who cares what banners you see? While you may not think you engage with that many ads, online advertising is one of the most effective channels at efficiently building frequency alongside traditional broadcast channels like TV and OOH and has probably had more of an impact on your behaviour than you might think. Some brands will also include discounts in retargeting banners to entice back users who abandoned a cart, so these are offers that you will potentially miss out on.
One of the biggest threats to content providers (such as news outlets) over the past three years has been the rise of adblockers. At present, the IAB estimates that adblocker usage in the UK sits at around 25% – 25% of users are not paying (via advertising) for content on news outlets. Speaking to the same news outlets, one national publication told me that they estimate that 23% of users are not going to opt in to let them sell their data. Another large network has said that beta-testing different opt-in mechanisms has seen roughly 40% of users opt-out of data collection. This represents another challenge for these outlets in monetising their existing content and funding their journalism and content creation.
So what, how does this impact you? It means that more and more outlets are going to have to hide their content behind paywalls because they can’t monetise it as effectively as before. My main question to anyone who uses an adblocker is “what gives you the right to stop publishers from monetising their content that they have had to pay to create?” and while data protection and privacy by no means fall into the same boat as this (users certainly have a right to privacy online), users do need to consider the impact that their actions have on these outlets in the same way.
WARC data shows that over 25% of global ad spend currently goes to Google or Facebook. That isn’t their share of digital ad spend, that is their share of spend including all other advertising channels. What we need to avoid is creating an online advertising environment where Google, Facebook and increasingly Amazon are the only providers who will be able to target users effectively, thus increasing their usefulness for brands and therefore the share of our advertising budgets that they end up receiving.
While GDPR represents an important step forward in online privacy, it also gives you the chance to be smarter about your data, and as marketers it’s our job to educate the rest of the population about what that means (if nothing else for the sake of our clients). So when the changes do roll around on May 25th, consider for example:
-Rather than blocking all news sites or content publishers from using your data, why not pick and choose who you let use it based on the content that you are happy funding? Personally, I know which media outlets I won’t be letting monetise my online behaviour
-When you’re on a brands page and you’re asked if they can retarget you, have a think about whether this is a brand you actually want to hear back from
-If you don’t like being ‘followed’ by the stereotypical ‘ASOS retargeting’, rather than block all brands from retargeting you why not just go to the source and block the likes of Criteo from serving you ads – thus only penalising brands with a basic retargeting strategy?
But with all that said, maybe making it easier to keep your personal information to yourself will finally give women a chance to escape those Clearblue ads on YouTube…