Advertising Digital Publishing Top Stories
5 mins read

The opt-out consumer: The impact of user consent on advertising and publishing

Despite Google’s decision to push back the deprecation of third-party cookies by another year, the data and consent landscape is transforming in real time. Husna Grimes of Permutive, Richard Reeves of the AOP, Jo Holdaway of The Independent, Stephen Bonner of the ICO, and Enza Iannopollo of Forrester met to discuss the current state of play and the optimal way forward. The full webinar can be watched here.

The topic of consumer consent has been increasingly in the spotlight with regulatory rulings finding several companies in breach of GDPR. Alongside this, a collection of varied data privacy laws are set to take effect next year in the US.

The digital advertising industry, as a whole, is faced with a number of challenges to consider when it comes to these regulations. Today, regulators and platforms are providing consumers with the choice of whether their data can or can’t be used by digital advertising. And when given that choice, consumers are saying no to digital advertising using their data.

Up to 50% of users in Europe are choosing opt-out since Google’s implementation of a ‘reject all’ cookies option in Chrome. Apple’s privacy framework is also creating hidden audiences with ATT (app tracking transparency) seeing users opting out of app tracking and email targeting with Apple’s Hide My Email. It’s led to drastically reduced addressability, where only 30% of audiences can be reached today.

So, regardless of Google’s decision to push back the deprecation of third-party cookies by another year, the data and consent landscape is already forcing the industry to evolve.

With all this in mind, audience platform Permutive recently held a webinar to explore the challenges around user consent and the ways that the advertising industry can reach consumers while respecting their data privacy choices.

Husna Grimes, VP of Global Privacy at Permutive, provided moderation of a panel session featuring insights from Richard Reeves, Managing Director at AOP; Jo Holdaway, Chief Data and Marketing Officer at The Independent; Stephen Bonner, Deputy Commissioner, Executive Director of Regulatory Future and Innovation at the ICO; and Enza Iannopollo, Principal Analyst at Forrester.

The “reject all” challenge

Publishers are facing the challenge of users opting out of their data being used for advertising, which has a significant impact on revenues. However, they are also the industry stakeholders best positioned to gain user consent.

“The impact that it’s having with publishers is that it requires resources, it requires time to make sure that publishers are compliant and, alongside that, it also means that it’s a cost to us. Because, as a data controller, we have to make sure that we’re compliant as a publisher, but we’re also responsible for partners that we use in the ad tech, analytics partners, etcetera. So, the onus is on us to not only make sure that we’re behaving, and doing what we should in terms of compliance, but so are the partners that we deal with,” said The Independent’s Holdaway.

According to Holdaway, the “only good thing” to come out of the current consent landscape is that publishers are now challenging their partners, and showing more interest in what these partners are doing with data to ensure publishers don’t risk the trust they have with their users.

AOP’s Reeves pointed to the fact that “the dialogue seems to be most around the impact economically,” with programmatic advertising continuing to be “a significant source of funding that enables the creation of original, quality content.”

However, he made it clear that the problems with consent aren’t just around finances. He said: “In terms of impact, it’s not just the monetisation challenge you need to consider, it’s also the impact on resources, as well as the complexities associated with monitoring and enforcing supply chain behaviours. It’s also quite a challenge for publishers to understand the different interpretations and applications across different DPAs in multiple territories.”

Reeves also pointed to “misunderstanding as to what the reject all button means” and what this means in terms of “publishers’ rights to serve advertising.” Bonner at the ICO addressed this misunderstanding and said: “Let’s be clear, it doesn’t mean you can’t serve advertising. What reject all means is that you haven’t convinced those customers that the way you’re handling their data is something that they want to have happen; you’ve lost their trust.”

There are plenty of mechanisms for doing advertising that are completely compliant with data protection law and don’t require invasive behaviour and tracking. Organisations that do that – contextual advertising is a pretty good way of doing this, there are others as well – that kind of behaviour leads to increased trust while maintaining revenues.

Stephen Bonner, Deputy Commissioner, Executive Director of Regulatory Future and Innovation ICO

Where’s the value in that?

The biggest issue around online consent often comes down to how well the industry is educating the consumer on how handing over their data benefits them, according to Forrester’s Iannopollo. Privacy notices tend to share what the benefits are to the business, rather than making it clear what the value is to consumers. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Forrester research shows that less than 10% of consumers care about personalised experiences, even though this is the most common type of value exchange currently seen online.

ICO’s Bonner sees the reason behind consumers not caring about personalised experiences being because there isn’t really a difference between what is served to them when cookies are enabled, versus when they’re not.

That’s why consumers are quite happy when given a free choice to select ‘reject all’, because their actual experience is not particularly different. And that’s a great shame, because there is real value here, there could be real benefits to giving consumers the kind of relevance they like.

Stephen Bonner, Deputy Commissioner, Executive Director of Regulatory Future and Innovation, ICO

 “There is still a poor job being done in terms of explaining explicitly to consumers the value for them in that exchange, and we know that consumers would like that to be explicit,” said Iannopollo. “There is a good amount of people that want to understand clearly how their data is used. And, secondly, they would like to be able to stay in control, which is fundamentally what the rules are also for.”

Working together for a better ecosystem

The consent landscape within digital advertising is at an inflection point, but there is a path forward for publishers, advertisers, and regulators through collaboration.

The burden shouldn’t just be on publishers, according to Holdaway. “The whole industry needs to understand the ramifications of this, the more informed consumer, and what will happen when more and more people reject the use of their data because we need to clean our act up,” said Holdaway. 

There are some fantastic advertisers, some fantastic tech for those out there that are taking it really seriously and responsibly.

Jo Holdaway, Chief Data and Marketing Officer, The Independent

Bonner said the ICO are “encouraged that there does seem to be a consensus across much of the industry that change is needed. And, working together, we absolutely can achieve this for everybody in the ecosystem.”

He added: “We want to see a world where people’s enduring preferences can be expressed and respected…without having to force the poor consumer to jump through pages of legalese. The status quo isn’t working well for anyone, and we’re in one of those few moments where there is an opportunity, with the deprecation and other changes occurring, to reinvent some of this, so it works brilliantly for many more of the people involved.”

The full webinar can be watched here