Questions for agency and publisher workshops
11 August 2018
The web advertising game is changing from a hacking contest to a reputation contest. It would have had to happen anyway, but the shift is happening quickly right now because of two trends.
Privacy regulation (starting with the European Union, California and India). Some regulations will have impact outside their own juristictions when companies choose not to write and enforce separate second-class privacy policies for users not covered by those regulations.
New "browser wars" over which browser can best implement widely-held user norms on sharing their personal information. (Web browsers are good at showing you a web page that looks the same as it does on the other web browsers. Why switch browsers? For many users, because one browser does better at implementing your preferences on personal data sharing.)
Right now the web is terrible as a tool for brand building. But the web doesn't have to get better at signaling, or less fraudulent, than print or broadcast. In a lot of places the web just has to be better than Android. Fixing web advertising is not one big coordination problem. People who are interested in web advertising, from the publisher and ad agency point of view, have a lot of opportunities for innovative and remunerative projects.
Browser privacy improvements, starting with Apple Safari's Intelligent Tracking Prevention, are half of a powerful anti-fraud system. The better that the browser protects the user's information from leaking from one site to another, the less it looks like a fraudbot. How can publishers and brands build the other half, to shift ad budgets away from fraud?
"Conscious choosers" are an increasingly well-understood user segment, thanks to ongoing user research. For some brands and publishers, the best strategy may be to continue to pursue "personalization pioneers", the approximately one-third of users who don't object to having their information collected for ad targeting. Other brands have more appeal to mainstream, vaguely creeped out, users, or to users who more actively defend their personal info. How can "conscious chooser" research inform brands?
Regulation and browser privacy improvements are making contextual targeting more imporant. Where are the opportunities to reach human audiences in the right context? Where does conventional programmatic advertising miss out on high-context, signalful ad placements because of gaps in data?
As sharing of user data without permission becomes less common, new platforms are emerging to enable users to share information about themselves by choice. For example, a user who comments on a local news site about traffic may choose to share their neighborhood and the mode of transportation that they take to work. User data sharing platforms are in the early stages, and agencies have an opportunity to understand where publishers and browsers are going. (Hint: it'll be harder to get big-budget eyeballs on low-value or fraudulent sites.) Which brands can benefit from user-permissioned data sharing?
(Complementary to data sharing issues) Consent management is still an unsolved problem. While the Transparency and Consent Framework provides a useful foundation to build on, today's consent forms are too annoying for users and also make it difficult and time-consuming to do anything except select a single all-or-nothing choice. This doesn't accurately reflect the user's data sharing choices. The first generation of consent management is getting replaced with a better front end that not only sends a more accurate consent decision, but also takes less time and attention and is less vulnerable to consent string fraud. How will accurate and convenient consent management give advantages to sites and brands that users trust?
Workshops are in progress on all this stuff. (Mail me at work if you want to help organize one.) Clearly it's not all just coming from the browser side—forward-thinking people at ad agencies and publishers are coming up with most of it.