Monday, November 12, 2012

Where will the advertising dollars go after DNT?

The sides are divided on the Do Not Track (DNT) issue since Microsoft decided to enable the DNT header in Internet Explorer 10. After feedback and action by the W3C, Apache, the DAA, and now Yahoo claiming that they will not honour the DNT track signal in the IE 10 browser, the entire DNT initiative is in jeopardy. This is a real shame because at the essence of the initiative is consumer privacy.

While some (myself being one of them) don't believe that the DNT setting should be enabled by default, I do believe that all should abide by the setting to illustrate that privacy in the industry is taken seriously. The last thing we all need is the consumer (they key individual in this entire debate) to become more skeptical about privacy, privacy policy, and privacy compliance. The uninformed consumer may only understand that privacy settings are being ignored. That is the wrong message.

It is also time for those who are predicting the death of online advertising if DNT persists, to acknowledge the resilience of the marketplace. Latest numbers indicate that online behavioral advertising accounts for only about 15% of the total ad spend. While 15% may be considerable, it does not signify the collapse of an industry if it was to disappear.  A few points to consider here:

  • The negative impact, if any, at most will be a fraction of this amount
  • Ad budgets will not decrease, as such, dollars will simply be reallocated to other forms
  • These pressures will spur creativity, new technology and services
  • There is an argument that a scarcity in behaviourally targeted inventory may contribute to increased quality and pricing of the available targeted inventory
  • TV, print and radio advertising have been around for years and are not dependent on tracking
Do Not Track and evolution in consumer privacy policy and expectations will surely have an impact on the ad supported web and associated industries, but it is also true that the players in the field will need to evolve. If the end result is that behaviourally targeted advertising ceases to exist due to technological changes and consumer demands, then be it. I don't see many people upset about the demise of the VHS rental industry or others that have evolved out of existence. In the meantime, it's business as usual.


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