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Advertising, GDPR and the reset button

Doc Searls’s spot-on article on his Harvard blog, “GDPR will pop the adtech bubble”, focuses on the many negatives of so-called adtech, for many people the worst thing to happen to advertising and probably responsible for the increasing use of advertising blockers, sparking a war that is far from over.

It’s the same old problem: tracking people without their knowledge, explicit consent, approval or a judicial order is not only wrong, doesn’t work: we soon grow tired of seeing the same ads from the same companies chasing us wherever we go online, ads that in many cases are irrelevant or correspond to things we’ve already acquired, despite advertisers’ belief in the power of metrics. Just because it’s possible to identify people by the characteristics of the devices they use, by means of a cookie that can’t be eliminated or by using techniques worthy of spy agency rather than an advertiser doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. In fact it may well be a very bad idea, and one that frequently backfires.

With the entry into force of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on May 25, many people like Searls expect to see the adtech bubble burst, bringing an end to a harmful fad that advertisers and ad agencies have invested in unquestioningly, with more negative effects than positive ones. In the fallout of Cambridge Analytica, even Facebook is toning down its methods and trying to end practices such as trying to trick Instagram’s algorithms, to more than two hundred applications that captured data improperly, along with incorporating third-party data into targeting. Another of the online advertising big beasts, Google, has also announced restrictions on the advertising activity of third parties on its platform. If this is what Facebook and Google, which are far from angels, are doing not just in the wake of recent scandals but also to adapt to the GDPR, we can expect further changes across the board.

If you’re in the advertising business, you need to start thinking about the likely impact of GDPR, which will mean hefty fines for once-acceptable advertising practices that have proved a total disaster. There is no point trying to find ways round GDPR or avoid its effects, so start understanding it for what it is: regulations in response to strong popular pressure. GDPR will be both positive and negative, and it will be some time before its impact can be assessed, but what is certain is that advertising is going to have to change. way. And for a lot of people out there sick and tired of adtech, that is good news.


(En español, aquí)