The word on the street is that the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed privacy recommendation for the online ad industry could lead to billions in lost revenue.
The thinking is that advertisers will stop spending money when they cannot target consumers based on their online behavior.
And, that having a do-not-track mechanism in which consumers can control the type of advertisements they want to see, and/or completely opt-out of having any of their online habits collected, will completely shut down the Internet, requiring publishers to go to a pay-as-you go model for content, further driving away users.
I mean, c’mon, advertisers will never stop spending money to reach consumers. (We can only be so lucky.)
Besides, users who opt-out would still receive ads, but they would be generic, or based solely on the content of the page a user is viewing. Not unlike how TV is bought today.
What's being talked about less in this argument is that one form of advertising does work online and it doesn't require tracking someone's behavior.
It's called search. Which, by the way, is the only successful new advertising format introduced in the last 50 years.
It seems to me that what this is about is control. Should the advdertiser have it? Or, should the user have it?
The answer isn't that it should be either/or. The answer is that both advertiser and user should have control?
So, how do we accomplish that?
Let's go back to search. Who controls search?
Who controls all other forms of advertising (well, besides print)? The advertiser.
What advertisers also control, and which I believe is more of an issue for the user then behaviorial targeting, is the whole idea of forced views.
Search is not a forced view.
It’s always been my belief that it’s not advertising that people are trying to avoid, but rather interruptions to what they’re watching. These interruptions just happen to be ads. This helps to explain the cult following that TiVo has.
People still want ads and information, but they want it on their terms – search - not when the advertiser says they should want it.
If that's true, then maybe instead of opting-out of being tracked, the FTC should mandate that forced views are no longer legal. Once a commercial starts, the viewer has the ability to leave it at any time they want. Not only when the advertiser wants.
Advertisers can still behaviorally target. But consumers control the time invested in any and all commercials placed in front of them.
What would happen?
Well, advertising would certainly have to get better, wouldn’t it?
Publishers could still sell impressions as a form of placement fee. But since viewers have to opt-in for the commercial to run, the overall numbers that would be relevant to advertisers would be smaller.
Rather than how many were exposed to a message, advertisers would start to be more interestd in how long viewers choose to be engaged with the message.
Publishers could sell this view duration data along with the placement fee.
In other words, an additional revenue stream for publishers would be created. They won't lose billions. They would make billions.
As advertisers start to focus on the amount of time a viewer spent with the message, agencies would start to focus on creating more engaging commercials.
Advertising would become more thoughtful. More involving. More effective.
So instead of opting-out of being followed, perhaps the FTC should allow consumers to opt-out of ads that are not relevant. In other words, allow behavioral targeting. But eliminate all forced views.
Will consumers go for this?
I don't know.