One of the last things the European Commission probably intended to do with GDPR is boost Google ad revenue. However, in the short term, that appears to be what’s happening.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is reporting that early data from ad exchanges and others indicates that Google and Facebook are benefiting from the new law at the expense of smaller companies and publishers, which are struggling to comply and have more trouble obtaining consent. This may be a short-term challenge, but it appears to be very real.
According to the WSJ report:
Since the law went into effect Friday, Google’s DoubleClick Bid Manager, or DBM, a major tool ad buyers use to purchase targeted online ads, has been directing some advertisers’ money toward Google’s own marketplace where digital-ad inventory can be bought and sold, and away from some smaller such [sic] ad exchanges and other vendors . . .
Havas SA, one of the world’s largest buyers of ads, says it observed a low double-digit percentage increase in advertisers’ spending through DBM on Google’s own ad exchange on the first day the law went into effect, according to Hossein Houssaini, Havas’s global head of programmatic solutions.
On the selling side, companies that help publishers sell ad inventory have seen declines in bids coming through their platforms from Google. Paris-based Smart says it has seen a roughly 50% drop. Amsterdam-based Improve Digital says it has experienced a similar fall-off for ads that rely on third-party vendors.
The central issue is consent verification. Google is apparently being conservative to avoid GDPR liability and won’t deliver personalized ads through DBM without a clear indication of consent, which the publisher must acquire. Google is already on the receiving end of multiple complaints from privacy groups in Austria and France.
Google is reportedly serving non-personalized ads to users on sites where it cannot verify consent. However, Google will soon join IAB Europe’s consent framework, which is designed to enable advertisers and publishers to share consent across the ecosystem. The way consent is obtained and managed between publishers and Google has been a contentious issue.
Dataxu is cited in the report for the contrary proposition that third-party exchanges haven’t seen significant inventory declines. However, they are transmitting consent at lower volumes, which means lower ad rates and more generic placements. Google’s high consent rate enables more personalized and better-performing ads for marketers.
Facebook has apparently also had good success getting consent from users. According to statements made in Europe by CEO Mark Zuckerburg, “the vast majority” of users are opting-in — although alleged “forced consent” is the subject of multiple complaints filed by privacy advocates.