When rules aren’t made to be broken

12 Sep 2017  |  James Collier 
When rules aren’t made to be broken

Quality advertisers and publishers need GDPR to bring balance back to the industry and to regain consumer trust - and it can’t come soon enough, writes James Collier

Best practice often comes couched in the shape of regulation. However, industries, much like people, fear the unknown; especially if it has the potential to stifle growth. This provides the calling card of every regulatory nay-sayer all over the world. The reality is, though, that without regulation, growth is typically limited to the very few. History shows us that the right regulation is far more of a boon to growth than a bane. GDPR is just another example of this.

The premise of the new EU legislation is relatively simple: to strengthen and unify data and identity protection for all individuals within the EU. A reasonable goal, most would agree, and if we’re honest, one that we as an industry of technologists and problem-solvers should have handled long before EU legislators felt the need to step in.

The moment when consumers felt the need to install adblockers should have been a wakeup call to the ad industry. As bitter lessons have taught, crossing the line between ‘could’ and ‘should’ must be considered carefully - and the wrong choice can have huge consequences.

GDPR is here to establish new best practice and the implications of this legislation for every organisation are far-reaching. One estimate suggested that the regulation’s limitations would put around 75% of most companies’ data out of commission.

Instead of kicking up a fuss, we have an opportunity to turn that on its head - GDPR is a chance to cut 75% of the chaff floating around in targeting data and finding intelligent new ways of building a contract of consent with consumers.

This will not only ensure a closer bond, but also the kind of relevant, quality insight that underpins a great customer experience. Publishers can seize back control of their customers’ identity and data, using it to create value for themselves.

That way, they can optimise their advertising real estate to boost yields and to better sell premium inventory to agencies and brands - also building the foundations for parity with the elephants in the room, the digital duopoly of Facebook and Google.

It will also enable them to protect the interests of the consumer, thereby developing a good reputation that creates value through a more receptive user-base.

The truth is that consumers, for the most part, don’t really care about their data being out there and used by marketers to target them with ads. Believe it or not, Prism’s research shows that a lot of them even like online advertising.

People rarely object to seeing visually engaging, relevant ads neatly displayed on a page. What people won’t tolerate is trying to read an article on their mobile that takes forever to load due to ad call clutter, then finding it impossible to navigate because of annoying pop-ups (that incidentally don’t comply with IAB standards), for products or services that are totally irrelevant.

Google’s latest research tells us that 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load, but that the average load time for mobile sites is 19 seconds over 3G connections.

There are some easy steps publishers can take to improve this, such as condensing image file size on mobile, but an overall look at the sequence of server requests can make huge advances. Improving site experience can ultimately only make audiences more liable to stay on the site for longer, and come back another time – another win for publishers.

With publishers fully in charge of their own environments and audiences – and advertisers serving compelling ads – my prediction is that GDPR will eventually obviate the need for ad blockers entirely. This is an opportunity, not a burden, that publishers and advertisers need to seize with both hands.

James is co-founder and chief revenue officer at Prism (formally Rainbow)


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