"Extremists” are trying to “cripple the advertising industry and eliminate it from the American economy and culture.” That's according to David Cohen, CEO of the ad organization Interactive Advertising Bureau.
Speaking this week at the IAB's annual leadership conference, Cohen offered some pointed criticism of politicians, privacy advocates and Apple -- which since 2021 has prohibited app developers from tracking iPhone users without their express consent.
“Washington D.C. leaders including Amy Klobuchar and Ted Cruz will throw our industry under their campaign buses, if we let them,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “And by 'this industry,' I don’t just mean digital marketing, media and advertising - I mean all media and entertainment, all advertising, and all the consumer and B2B brands that depend on them.”
Cohen went on to warn against the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA), a federal privacy bill that would have outlawed some forms of behavioral advertising.
“I’m here to tell you that if the national data privacy law (ADPPA) that made progress at the end of 2022 had passed, it would destroy our industry,” he said. “Big Tech, Small Tech and everything in-between Tech.”
Last July, the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced the bipartisan bill by a vote of 53-2, but the full House did not vote on the measure, and the Senate did not hold hearings on it.
The IAB leader also condemned the nonprofit Accountable Tech, describing it as "one of the more virulent anti-advertising groups trying to shut down the ad-supported internet."
In 2021, Accountable Tech petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to outlaw “surveillance advertising” -- including serving ads to consumers based on their activity across sites. Consumer Reports and the Electronic Privacy Information Center backed that request in a joint FTC filing.
Cohen also had some sharp words for Apple, accusing it of trying “to smother the advertising industry.”
It's no secret that the IAB opposed Apple's decision to require developers to obtain consumers' consent before tracking them.
In Europe, IAB France went so far as to bring an antitrust complaint over Apple's consent setting, which rolled out in 2021.
On the other hand, advocacy groups -- including Nobel Peace Prize winner Amnesty International -- told Apple they supported the opt-in approach to mobile tracking.
In any event, Apple clearly intends to stay the course for the foreseeable future. Just this week, the company released a five-minute ad touting the iPhone's privacy features, including the one that only allows tracking after users consent.
Instead of relying on third party cookie tracking to push advertising messages on consumers, maybe bring back high level of artistic creativity to the ad industry. Focus more on aesthetically appealing verbal, visual, or sound elements in ad creative. It seems that the art of brand marketing has gotten lazy and primarily relies on technical methods for brands to reach their target audiences. How about getting back to some solid media communications basics?
Regarding tracking ... it's stealth for wealth. Maybe being open and transparent with your brand would resonate with your target audience.
+1 to Kevin as well.
If DuckDuckGo (a search engine with 'merely' an estimated 50 million users) can survive placing ads without tracking anyone, and nevertheless be a commercial success (they have been around 2008, still paying their bills, still profitable), why cannot everyone else?
The problem here is the sheer amassment of data to try to 'profile' users. In practice — how many independent, academic, peer-reviewed studies have shown that reshuffling a timeline (on any social media — all have some form of timeline these days) based on cookie tracking (or any other technology) has, indeed, resulted in increased revenue for those placing ads there?
Or, conversely, how much did advertising companies manage to save in terms of buying very targeted ads, as opposed to — well, creative & aesthetically pleasing ads? Are there any statistics about that? I'm asking a real (not hypothetical) question, because I personally don't know.
Also, product placement does wonders through influencers. And these are already being followed by a target audience of their own. Granted, some of those so-called 'influencers' are nothing more than a product of mass-marketing, but I would bet that the number of those who are not 'fake' influencers, but genuinely so — for their merit, not the number of followers paid to join their groups/channels — is far larger, and placing products with them will go much further than, well, a 'fake' audience created by buying Likes on Facebook (or the equivalent on other social media).
I think that the IAB, instead of 'fighting back against extremists' should rethink their strategy for a world where profiling user data will become increasingly more difficult — but that's pretty much what we had in the 1990s, and the ad business was not 'crippled'. Rather, it relied on traditional — read: creative! — ways of advertising. Remember, the term 'guerilla marketing' wasn't coined in the mid-2010s; and it was as effective in a pre-tracking era as it is today.
Personally, I'm firmly convinced that the AI-number-crunching of Big Data created by the social media giants — who are so often much more concerned about the tech they've managed to develop, not necessarily what they can give to advertisers as effective tools — is just horribly distorting the way people (consumers) perceive their surroundings. This works great if your goal is to raise extremism and lock people down into their bubbles and echo chambers (in order to feed them targeted ads, of course). But does it really increase your sales? Somehow, I doubt it. (It certainly grows the income of the social media giants, though.)
I always remember how Facebook struggled to find a valid business model ca. 2005. Then Microsoft stepped in and told Zuckerberg: 'you need advertising. Here, let us show you how it's done'. At the end of the first year of operation, Facebook (now Meta) was one billion dollars richer. They promptly kicked Microsoft out of the partnership, and re-invested that money in their own ad platform. That was before they had uh 'algorithms'. The timeline was exactly that: a list of posts by your friends, ordered by date. Every now and then, an ad would be placed in the middle of the stream. To catch your attention, well, the ad had to be aesthetically pleasing and provoking, so that you might click on it. Back then nobody thought (yet) of tracking users across services and platforms. Facebook still made money — a lot of money, in fact...
One might argue that this is not 2005 any longer, and ads today have little in common with ads back then. Well, maybe. I can only say that apparently Apple thinks along the same lines (no comments about Amy Klobuchar and/or Ted Cruz). What do they know that the IAB doesn't?
(It's not even true that Apple is not in the ad business. Of course they are. It's just not their main source of revenue — like Microsoft. Both companies nevertheless make their billions with ads, each using their own strengths. The difference between them and Meta is that they have other products and services to sell besides ads. Facebook has nothing more than that. Google has a few scattered services here and there, but ads is still where their wealth stems from. Naturally, they're not happy with the way the world — that is, the 'extremists' — is turning.)