Kai Henniges, CEO video intelligence: Why the advertising industry needs GDPR?

The arrival of GDPR this May can’t be ignored, it also can’t be overestimated. It’s going to have a huge impact on the advertising industry. We’ve only got ourselves to blame for it, but thankfully we’ve got ourselves to thank for the solution, too.

Let’s admit it, things got out of hand. The more we realized that we could monetize the internet, the more we did so. The ad tech industry sprung up with myriad solutions for brands, all promising new ways to reach consumers with advertising. This system drove the growth of some of the platforms we now use every day. Fantastic brands like Vice and LadBible were able to produce astounding content, in volumes, all funded by advertising.

But creating daily content proved an expensive habit. Quality writers were in short supply, poor writers were in abundance. So display banners multiplied sites, followed by pop-ups… garish affiliate systems appeared. Click-bait platforms began to guarantee revenue for publishers, against the promise that they would bombard users with their unsightly content ‘blocks’. Video advertising paid even more, and so video popped up all over the place. The ‘pivot to video’ may now be seen as the last great hurrah of digital advertising.

Consumers, understandably, got annoyed. Media has always been funded by advertising, but the beautiful photography of magazine ads, or predictable length of the TV break made the experience tolerable. Online it was just a free-for-all.

Some have argued that the European Union introduced GDPR as a protectionist measure, to give European publishers and tech companies some competitiveness against the USA giants. Maybe there’s an element of truth in there, but there’s also a history in Europe of considered regulation being used to enhance our day-to-day lived experience. When GDPR comes in, it will hand some power back to the consumers. Individuals will have a greater knowledge of the data they share, and will only exchange that data for content they’re actually interested in seeing.

In some cases this will mean that we choose to give our data to reputable sites, and not dodgy ones. Sites with credibility will ask us to provide our details, in exchange for access. They may even pass those details on, again with our consent, in exchange for access to even better content. Our data as a currency will be re-mortgaged. Whilst the right to simply refuse to provide our data will remain.

In the immediate wake of the legislation, data will become a difficult resource to work with. First-party data will be harder to acquire, but those with a compelling offering should find that they can reach a good value exchange with customers. After all, people want and need to read and watch.

Third party data on the other hand will be non-existent to start with, It will take some time before publishers have enough data that has explicit agreement to be shared. Naturally many DMPs are searching for solutions to this, and vendors will have to be vigilant, and confident that any 3rd party data they’re using is compliant.

But the biggest growth will be contextual targeting. Frequently overlooked, and occasionally sneered at, contextual targeting is probably the oldest advertising methodology there is. Target people based on what they’re definitely, already interested in. It’s used in print advertising, as we reach customers based on what they’re reading. It’s used in OOH, as train commuters are targeted with products to help improve your life, and with longer form copy given the boredom rates.

Contextual video has been given a boost by the accessibility of machine learning technology. Through natural language processing, ML is able to absorb and sort page content, sentiment and intent. It’s a timely advance, and one which means we can now scale and automate previously manual activities, and be confident we’re delivering messages in the right context.

But what makes contextual video so pertinent is that it relies on page data, not user data. And that’s a powerful, compelling solution to GDPR. It’s the sort of solution the regulation is designed to encourage. Rather than searching for loopholes in the legislation, we should listen to the reasons that it was introduced in the first place, and find solutions that enhance the customer experience, without dispossessing them.

Technology will forever continue to advance, as will our relationship to it. The next evolution in adtech will be one that brings people closer to the tech they use on a daily basis. Let’s be a part of a new vision of advertising technology with human experience at the heart.

Kai Henniges is CEO and Co-founder at video intelligence, a contextual video platform that connects publishers, content providers and brands through video storytelling. For more information visit www.vi.ai

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