75% of European consumers prefer an ad-supported internet because it is largely free to access. Ban on targeted advertising would shift this paradigm and lead to the monetisation of content across the digital space.
Streets visually polluted with unappealing billboards should long have been a matter of the past. Signs that spoil view on the local panorama are not only a pain in the neck, but they have also proven to be ineffective. According to a study carried out by Deloitte on a sample of 30,000 SMEs from 18 countries, 52% reported that offline, traditional advertising does not effectively reach their target audience.
So, what alternative does help consumers get more relevant content that engages with their interests? The answer is targeted & personalised advertising that is based on an individual’s previously collected or historical data (user’s activity, visits to sites or apps, demographic information, etc.).
As the European Parliament currently debates the Digital Services Act and the way forward in ensuring a transparent and fair digital world, some voices from within the Parliament have been loudly calling for a ban on personalised advertising, citing the best interest of the consumers. However, such provisions would be counter-effective and would, instead, dissatisfy the end-users.
Thanks to behavioural targeted ads, consumers see less irrelevant content and get to discover new products and services that fit their taste. The study conducted by BCG found that customers increasingly prefer a shopping experience that’s easy, fast and helps them make purchase decisions. Customers think less about personalisation per se than they do about the benefits it can provide.
Ban on targeted advertising does not mean that consumers would no longer receive ads, it would only make them more annoying and less beneficial. Furthermore, service providers sell space on their websites to advertisers and get paid when visitors click on the placed ads. The proposed ban would decrease the effectiveness of placed ads by showing consumers less relevant content. It would thus reduce the revenue of service providers. To compensate for that loss, they would have two options:
- To sell more space on their website and thus increase the visual pollution, in hopes that more ads placed would bring more clicks, decreasing the comfort and satisfaction of the users (who would be already dissatisfied by having to see irrelevant ads).
- To monetise their content. Behavioural targeted advertising and the revenue it brings makes it possible for consumers to get a lot of content for free. For instance, it accounts for 81% of European media digital revenues. However, if the new European Regulation takes away this opportunity, it might leave providers with no option but to monetise content. That would render a lot of services, such as news, hidden behind the paywall. The estimated cost of the ban could be up to €106 billion per year or €237 for every European citizen. This disproportionally favours users who can pay for premium platform services and harms in particular lower-income Europeans and their access to information.
Even the European Commission recently admitted that consumers prefer to see ads that align with their interests, rather than content that is randomly placed in front of them. It is now up to the European Parliament to make the right choice, embrace and improve the compromise achieved so far and reject any attempts for a ban on targeted advertising that does not benefit consumers or businesses.