Google’s ad privacy shows why it’s fighting to save the ad-funded internet

Google’s Claire Norburn writes that digital advertising should be safer, but it would be a mistake to completely abandon the ad-supported web.

Access to quality information has never been more important than now. We are living through a pandemic, we are seeing a cost of living and energy crisis, we are witnessing a terrible war in Ukraine and we are experiencing increasing climate crises around the world.

People rely on accessible and reliable information to navigate uncertainty. Today, around 90% of Europe is online with an explosion of tools, information and content at their fingertips.

Advertising has played a key role in this, funding our favorite content from newspapers to magazines to entertainment television and now the internet. But with more people online and more concerned about their privacy, the ad-funded internet model has become a topic of debate.

People reject ads they see as spam or invasive. Regulators around the world are rightly calling for a more private internet, and some critics are calling for a complete ban on personalized advertising.

Clearly, we need a more responsible, respectful internet. Digital advertising should be safer for people, more successful for publishers and more powerful for businesses. But it would be a mistake to completely abandon the ad-supported Internet. The reason for this:

Ads can be made more private

Moving to a world without third-party cookies means rethinking the technology on which much of the advertising system is built and creating new, privacy-first solutions. But these solutions can and do exist.

We share and test many of them through the Privacy Sandbox: introducing new technologies that will allow users to see relevant ads without compromising their privacy or tracking across sites. We are working with the industry on change and listening to their feedback, staying on course to eliminate third-party cookies by the end of 2024.

These are not the only changes we have made. At Dmexco in Cologne, we announced two more new tools to help users and advertisers alike move towards a more personal web.

The first is the Google Ads Privacy Center, created to help advertisers track product innovation and learn from others.

The second is My Ad Center. Last year, 300 million people visited Ad Settings and decided to make ads more specific. My Ads Center will give people control over the ads they want to see on Search, Discovery and YouTube by choosing what they like and don’t want – all in one place. This works because the best ads are useful, relevant and safe.

Ads will be more private

Last year, we surveyed more than 7,000 Europeans and found that when brands respect privacy, their ads perform better. This year we went deeper: we asked 20,000 Europeans about the consequences of good and bad privacy practices.

Research shows that the industry won’t just be rewarded for respecting people’s privacy — it can’t prevent it.

Three-quarters of those surveyed preferred to buy from brands that gave them more control over their privacy, and nearly half said they would switch to a brand that respected their online privacy.

When brands get it wrong, the consequences have been drastic. Bad privacy practices are just as damaging to customer trust as having their data stolen: enough to make them switch to another brand entirely. The impact of a negative privacy experience outweighs the positive, so it’s almost impossible for brands to win customers back once the damage is done.

The research is clear: personal advertising is effective advertising. So moving to a more private model is not just an option, it’s a necessity.

People want an ad-supported web

Shifting to a more respectful, responsible ad-supported web model is not only essential to advertising success, but to the future of the internet.

We’ve seen calls to ban personalized advertising altogether and rely only on “contextual” advertising. But that won’t pay for the web everyone wants. It has been predicted that personalized advertising will suddenly disappear From $32 billion to $39 billion At a time when reliable data has never been more important, it will alienate those who rely on open web technology, including publishers.

Some say that all services should simply be paid for. But it will turn the internet into a luxury product, locking in billions. That’s why subscription model pioneers Netflix and others like Disney and HBO now serve ads to users who want or need to pay less.

These alternative models are not only flawed, but also unpopular. Research by IAB Europe shows that 75% of Europeans would prefer today’s internet experience without the ads they have to pay to access websites, content and apps.

For online advertising and the future of the internet, it’s now or never. Without people’s trust, the future of the ad-supported internet is in jeopardy. We need to embrace change and create an ad-supported web fit for the future: a web that gives people the quality information they need, with the privacy they deserve, and powered by brands they can trust. We are here to support this transition.

Claire Norburn is the ad privacy lead for Google in the UK and Ireland.

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