Have websites created a cookie monster? Advertisers have an enormous appetite for those tasty bits of code that get left on users’ computers, letting us know what those people have been looking at on the Web.
The European Union thinks marketers are being a little too nosy.
A recent Ad Age article
claims this European law will hurt consumer experience and marketing effectiveness. In fact, the article’s title predicts "the death of digital."
We think this is unlikely.
First, the law has been in effect for a year. If we needed to panic, we should have started months ago. Sites had 12 months to comply. We haven’t heard about the death of digital in Europe yet, even though we presume some sites have been compliant for a while.
What’s more, some last-minute changes in the law also expanded the criteria for "implied consent," making compliance far easier.
We don’t believe the EU is going to intentionally strangle digital marketing when the global economy is struggling.
A second wave of horror spread through the digital advertising industry recently when Microsoft announced the next version of Internet Explorer would ship with “Do Not Track” functionality turned on.
This move has created an uproar. While privacy advocates are congratulating Microsoft, the rest of our industry is dismayed that such a big player has broken ranks.
If Microsoft does ship Internet Explorer this way, will it kill online advertising? We doubt it.
Internet Explorer is not the behemoth it once was. Many people who have switched to Safari, Firefox and Chrome aren’t looking for a reason to go back. But even if the browser becomes a big hit, it’s not clear that people will prefer the experience of not being tracked.
Everyone knows the effort it takes to sign into our favorite sites when we delete our cookies. Some of us will opt back into tracking for those reasons. Others will be unhappy to learn that sites like Netflix and Amazon no longer have much information about what users like, so recommendations are no longer as helpful.
And we all know that many people still prefer their Internet content to be free. Without advertising, something would have to give.
Most important, we have confidence advertisers will find a way to target without running into privacy problems. Look at Pinterest or YouTube as a couple ways we might get there. You can target someone by their “likes” without having any idea who they are.
Just like the good old days, when advertisers bought space in The New Yorker
based on the kind of person who was on the subscription list, we’ll be creative in our targeting. All those billions of Internet advertising dollars won’t move to billboards next year.