29th September, Brussels, Belgium: The European digital advertising industry has warned against regulation in the Digital Services Act (DSA) that would needlessly damage thousands of businesses, including European media that primarily depend on advertising revenue.
Digital advertising is already heavily regulated, but the upcoming DSA could layer further burdens on the online content and services that rely on it for funding, in a misguided attempt to update the rules governing technology. Advertising currently accounts for eighty-one percent of traditional newspaper and magazines’ digital revenues, leaving the media particularly exposed to poorly-conceived new rules.
As the European Parliament’s Committees on Legal Affairs (JURI), and Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) consider seeking further regulation of digital advertising as a part of the DSA, IAB Europe – representing five thousand companies across the digital advertising and marketing ecosystem – urges an approach that takes account of the requirements already laid down in the law and preferences enforcing compliance with those requirements over creating new ones.
Portraying targeted advertising as a practice that exploits users’ ignorance and naiveté while offering them little in return fails to take account of the reality of how the business model benefits the media and users. The availability of online content and services that are available at low or no cost to users because of advertising revenue means consumers with different purchasing power have choices about what they pay for with money and what they pay for with a willingness to see ads. A facile and indiscriminate condemnation of “tracking” ignores the fact that local, generalist press whose investigative reporting holds power to account in a democratic society, cannot be funded with contextual ads alone, since these publishers do not have the resources to invest in lifestyle and other features that lend themselves to contextual targeting.
Commenting on the votes in the European Parliament’s committees, Townsend Feehan, CEO of IAB Europe said: “In recent years, digital advertising has become a convenient scapegoat for every negative or frightening phenomenon on the Internet. Prohibiting “tracking” is a facile way to appear to be taking action, while avoiding dealing with problems in the digital world that have nothing to do with advertising or would not arise if privacy and data protection law were effectively enforced. If we focus on targeted advertising in the Digital Services Act, we will have failed in the mission of better protecting users online.”
Instead of adding redundant or contradictory provisions to the current rules, IAB Europe urges EU policymakers and regulators to work with the industry and support existing legal compliance standards such as the IAB Europe Transparency & Consent Framework, that can even help regulators with enforcement. The DSA should rather tackle clear problems meriting attention in the online space.
For more information, please contact:
Helen Mussard, IAB Europe (firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 7399 919 594)