Private Browsing, Less Targeting

Changes in election and privacy laws aren’t the only adjustments that digital ad buyers should worry about going in to 2020. The folks who make web browsers have stepped in with changes in how ad trackers can follow consumers .

These adjustments are going to affect political ad targeting – not at some future point when laws take effect and regulations have been approved – but now, as we head into the 2020 election cycle.

The big driver here is Apple, whose Safari browser no long permits the wholesale use of cookies – small pieces of html code that track users’ behavior. The Firefox browser has similar blocking. This is important because the wholesale buying and selling of this tracking information, so-called “cookie pools,” is a vital part of online voter targeting.

Some may console themselves with the fact that Google’s with its Chrome browsers hasn’t been as aggressive but that’s bound to change. Google and Apple compete head to head in the mobile market – Android v. iPhone – and Apple’s is doing a pretty good job of showing up Google in the “don’t be evil” argument to consumers. Respect – defense, even – for user privacy is part of that effort.

We’ll leave the tedious conversations about replacement technologies to the ad tech geeks. Suffice it to say that there are three big changes in the works.

  • The use of cookie-based targeting is official over. Online ads aren’t targeting individual voters. Using cookies, ads are targeting pools of people who are like those voters.
  • The effectiveness of what’s known as ‘real time bidding’ is coming to an end. RTB with cookie targeting is is the technique that most political ad resellers rely on for inexpensive remnant video and banner ad placements.
  • And the much-ballyhooed cross-device tracking is not going to get off the ground as anticipated. If a vendor suggests they’re using phone device IDs to find specific users, they may be using questionable practices to get that information.

In other words, many of the technologies that political advertisers depend on – cheap video and banner ads, targeting to voters using cookie pools – won’t work as effectively six months from now.

Within the ad tech community, there seems to be one common theme: given these changes, buying ads directly from outlets is is safer and more effective than relying on ad exchanges or networks.

This change – a spill over effect of changes in European privacy law – is something Spot-On’s prepared for. As dollars and attention flow to digital ad placements, it make more sense to buy political ad directly from known outlets – where a constant and significant number of regular readers are voters – than it does to trust a soon-to-be-obsolete technology that’s always been hit-or-miss.

Spot-On is getting ready to roll out its Pinpoint Placement buying platform which automates direct buying and provides transparency and security for buyers and sellers. We’re looking for a few good beta testers. Care to join us?

Send an email if you’d like to learn more.

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