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Does Advertising Really Need so Much Tracking?

Our old friend Doc Searls is taking another step toward putting readers in charge of their data and taking on the use of too much consumer tracking. In a prototype edition of the reborn Linux Journal, he is going ask readers to indicate what they want in their advertising:

We believe the only cure is code that gives publishers ways to do exactly what readers want, which is not to bare their necks to adtech’s fangs every time they visit a website.

We’re doing that by reversing the way terms of use work. Instead of readers always agreeing to publishers’ terms, publishers will agree to readers’ terms. The first of these will say something like this:

That appeared on a whiteboard one day when we were talking about terms readers proffer to publishers. Let’s call it #DoNotByte. Like others of its kind, #DoNotByte will live at Customer Commons, which will do for personal terms what Creative Commons does for personal copyright.

Publishers and advertisers can both accept that term, because it’s exactly what advertising has always been in the offline world, as well as in the too-few parts of the online world where advertising sponsors publishers without getting too personal with readers.

Notice he is not anti-advertising as a business model. He is for restoring advertising to what it used to be — brand advertising. He refers to data-driven advertising as “junk mail.”

He theorizes that we’ve (publishers) lost a lot here by putting data collection in the driver’s seat:

By now you’re probably wondering how adtech has come to displace real advertising online. As I put it in “Separating Advertising’s Wheat and Chaff”, “Madison Avenue fell asleep, direct response marketing ate its brain, and it woke up as an alien replica of itself.” That happened because Madison Avenue, like the rest of big business, developed a big appetite for “big data”, starting in the late 2000s. (I unpack this history in my EOF column in the November 2015 issue of Linux Journal.)

Madison Avenue also forgot what brands are and how they actually work. After a decade-long trial by a jury that included approximately everybody on Earth with an internet connection, the verdict is in: after a $trillion or more has been spent on adtech, no new brand has been created by adtech; nor has the reputation of an existing brand been enhanced by adtech. Instead adtech does damage to a brand every time it places that brand’s ad next to fake news or on a crappy publisher’s website.

Yes, Doc is a friend of ZEDO.  But he is also a terrific writer, and you owe it to yourself as a publisher or a member of our ecosystem to read what he has to say in Linux Journal.

New Consumer-Driven Ad Standards Proposed

Will changes to the advertising industry come from within, or from outside? Doc Searls, one of the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto (markets are conversations) and the founder of the VRM (vendor relations management) movement) and a well-known privacy and security expert, Mary Hodder, are about to release what they call a “term,” which amounts to a set of choices consumers can make about what ads they want to see.

They have convened a group of high quality publishers and ad tech companies, including the ad blocker software developers, and are rolling out a set of choices consumers will be able to make about what ads they see. Once the consumer says “I want only ads that don’t track me,” or “I want only brand ads,” the publisher will serve ads according to the individual consumers’ choice.

This puts the responsibility on the publisher to comply, and on the ad blocking software maker to implement correctly. It’s for people who have already said they want to block certain ads, in an effort to make sure they don’t block ALL ads and force the escalation of the ad blocking/anti-ad blocking war that threatens to cause more turbulence in the industry.

As for advertisers, who want more and more data, and are the ones who encourage tracking (and the ones who pay the bills), they will be asked to accept these limitations on how far they can stalk consumers who have already chosen to download ad blockers.

This same “term” will also be presented at the United Nations this week, in an effort to bring it in line with what the EU and other global entities have already enacted with regard to data privacy.

The TL;DR here is that programmatic and RTB will not vanish, but retargeting will cease, for everyone, just as popups did ten years ago. And most advertising will be brand advertising, for which ultra-tracking is not necessary.

In a way, this is just “back to the future,” for advertisers, who got carried away with metrics and forgot they were dealing with human beings.