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Adland deserves to face tougher legislation because of how we behave
Tim Burrowes writes:
The legendary Bob Hoffman was in town this week.
He spoke at a dinner organised by Eric Faulkner’s media benchmarking company, Mad Clarity.
It was something of a farewell tour. Hoffman stopped writing his weekly Ad Contrarian newsletter at the start of this year.
For fans of Hoffman’s writing, it was a greatest hits set. Despite being someone who played the agency game - including a long ago stint leading Mojo’s attempt to crack America - Hoffman was willing to call it as he saw it on adland bullshit, particularly the rise of digital advertising and the fraudulent trading that accompanies its programatic delivery.
As he wrote last month (he still writes, just not every week), much of the industry sits somewhere between complacency and conspiracy when it comes to digital advertising. He argues that it suits agencies, marketers, tech companies and industry associations not to rock the boat.
Marketers may see their ad budgets leaking out to third parties and fraudsters, but the real victim is the public, whose privacy is invaded by an industry incentivised to fine tune targeting. Targeting, argues Hoffman, is a word deliberately chosen because it sounds more benign than tracking:
The issue isn't targeting, the issue is how the targets are generated. Targeting that is developed from non-intrusive, non-personal, or publicly available data -- what I call "clean targeting" -- is fine with me. But targeting that is developed by spying on unsuspecting individuals (i.e., tracking) -- what I call "dirty targeting" -- is wrong and dangerous.
The problem is that by calling tracking-based advertising "targeted advertising" we are giving the adtech industry a perfect opportunity to muddy the waters and confuse the shit out of regulators. They can argue that targeting is a necessary part of advertising and that by banning targeting regulators would be undermining the logic of the advertising industry. This is true, but irrelevant.
Legislators (and Apple) are slowly moving against cookie-based targeting.
In Australia, the government is currently working on an overhaul of the Privacy Act. The ad industry is lobbying to water down the plans. The IAB says it’s not workable.
As the AFR explained it earlier this month: “As part of an overhaul of the nation’s privacy laws, the government wants to broaden the definition of what counts as ‘personal information’, let people opt out of targeted advertising, and ask for consent before companies can trade that personal information.” How dare they?
Free TV, one of the most effective lobbying organisations in the country, argues in its submission that the inability to target (track) will mean ads on video streaming will be less lucrative. “It is not an overstatement to say that, if fully implemented, the changes set out in the report threaten the ongoing existence of the [free-to-air] commercial television sector”.
I don’t buy that. Tighter legislation would level the playing field for everyone. The free to air networks will not cease to exist.
A comment on a Mumbrella article on the topic pointed out last week that the industry failed to adopt the sort of privacy standards created in Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, so now tighter legislation is needed locally (I’ve highlighted the major point in bold:
As the industry well knows, the case for GDPR equivalence has been made out over and over. Medibank sealed the deal beyond all reasonable doubt. Optus not far behind – were Optus keeping data for decades to help with targeted advertising? Or were they just cavalier?
The problem for the industry with GDPR is that programmatic and other platforms are STILL not in compliance because they still want to collect, process and licence/sell data to third parties in breach of the law.
Aussie consumers need the rights contained within the new legislation and the industry has to recognise that it is one of the entities from whom consumers need protection.
“Unintended consequences” aka completely intended – to stop us abusing consumer data!
“impracticality” – we will be forced to up our game!
“an abuse of process” – we will be held to account in Court? Oh no!
The industry’s leaders and lobbyists are, I contend, letting everyone down by their failure to agree and enforce behaviour the public would expect if they understood what was going on. Getting away with it for a little bit longer has been the name of the game.
Much like the industry’s failure to act on public disquiet about the prevalence of gambling ads, future regulation will be more stringent than it otherwise needed to be.
The public needs protecting from us because we are the baddies.
Unmade Index tilts higher
The Unmade Index, our measure of the performance of ASX-listed media and marketing companies, saw a 0.47% lift yesterday, edging slightly higher to close at 689.2.
Catalogue and magazine printing company IVE Group had the highest lift in its share price yesterday, closing 1.63% higher. It was followed by Southern Cross Austereo, which fell by 2.84% just two days ago. SCA closed 1.16% higher yesterday.
Research house Pureprofile saw another tumble, with its share price falling by 7.41% yesterday after a 4% fall two days ago.
Enero Group and HT&E both saw falls on the Index yesterday, of 2.83% and 0.93% respectively.
Time to leave you to your Thursday. We’ll be back with more in Best of the Week on Saturday.
Have a great day.
Publisher - Unmade
I agree on every part of this as the 'how / why we got here', AND I also agree with a lot of the proposed legislation. Having spent, however, 2 years in the very narrow field of where Privacy specifically impacts Martech (at both a legislative and the resulting technical level) I disagree that the proposed Australian legislation will create an entirely level playing field benefiting the 'Australian' media and marketing ecosystem as one might hope.
The primary concern highligthed in our own (Civic Data) submission is that, without a regulatory carve-out akin to fintech, the (proposed) legislation may not i) enable Australian entities to effectively compete within the conflicting framework proposed, and ii) provide assurances that Australian firms can fairly compete against big tech giants and their substantial lobbying budgets. Consequently, the fear is that this could lead to more Australian marketing dollars being funnelled towards US businesses, accompanied by new increased costs for US Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETS) to solve for the conflicts - as it would be a safer, more straightforward and cheaper approach to ensure compliance with privacy regulations.