70% of Your Consumers Are Now ‘Invisible’ to Your Adtech Stack – How Did This Happen, and What Can You Do About It?

Illustration of surreal man disappearing in the fog, abstract concept stock illustration

By Andra Mititelu, Business Director, Audience Platform for Advertisers at Permutive

The advertising industry, while fast-paced and innovative, often gets caught up in heated conversations about privacy regulations and what big tech companies are doing. So much so that they have lost sight of what’s happening with consumers, who are increasingly dictating the pace of change. So much so that 75% of US and UK consumers are not comfortable purchasing from a brand with poor personal data ethics.

More and more, consumers are aware of how their data is being used by third parties online and, when given the choice, are increasingly opting out of their data being used for hyper-targeting and tracking. The result is between browsing in hidden environments, disabling cookies or other methods of opting out, addressability collapsing to just 30% on the open web.

How did we get here?

Where once 100% of the open web used to be addressable, browser changes once led to half of all users effectively disappearing from digital advertising over the last two years or so, having taken the choice to use cookie-blocking browsers. Although Chrome supports cookies, 40% of users also change their privacy settings or browse incognito to block ad tracking altogether.

Our own analysis shows that the combination of users choosing cookie-blocking browsers plus opting out on Chrome is leading to 70% of the internet being effectively invisible to adtech. These numbers will become more extreme, as Chrome has stated they will continue to roll out their ‘reject all’ button as per GDPR direction, making it even easier for users to opt-out.

The rate and impact of consumer opt-out is a major concern, as ad spend focuses on just 30% of consumers on the open web.

What does opt-out mean for marketers?

As a marketer or agency, it means that 90% of your budget, on average, is going towards reaching just 30% of consumers. So how can brands reach the invisible 70%?

The solution is simpler and closer to home than marketers may think. To reach opt-out consumers, marketers need to build direct relationships and work closely with publishers.

Advertisers and publishers are the two endpoints that frame the advertising ecosystem and have direct relationships with their consumers, they have a direct way of getting consent from consumers where there’s clear choice and value exchange available. And publishers can see and responsibly target consumers via first-party data while respecting consumers’ privacy choices.

As consumers become more knowledgeable about how their data is being used by adtech, and as privacy regulations continue to push for consumer choice in sharing data, any solutions that reinforce the status quo won’t be sustainable. For example, cookie replacements that prolong the user privacy problem are in the sights of regulators and will also be blocked by users who don’t want to be tracked. And tracking workarounds like fingerprinting are being called out by major browsers as problematic or violating user privacy.

A path forward

Using data responsibly in advertising is an increasingly important criterion for businesses. Marketers that can leverage data for audience segmentation, insights, targeting and measurement while respecting consumer privacy and choice, with no reliance on third-party cookies or any replica solutions is a true win-win-win. For advertisers, publishers, and consumers.

As the owners of consent, publishers are uniquely enabled to provide advertisers with audiences built from rich, consented first-party data. When consumers opt-out of their data being used by third-party adtech companies, the audience is still there, but it’s publishers that can identify them using insights from page signals including categories, concepts, emotions, sentiment and keywords.

By leveraging the rich first-party data they have access to, publishers can deliver accuracy and scale to advertisers from first page-view. In doing so, publishers can build unique audiences for advertisers to reach, giving them the ability to reach invisible audiences and achieve marketing goals without compromising user privacy.

To continue to reach consumers, advertisers must work with publishers via a privacy-safe tech infrastructure to find, scale and activate their consented consumer data, including the opt-out consumers. This way, adtech becomes an enabler of scalable, one-to-many, direct relationships between data owners – advertisers and publishers – and stops acting as an intermediary.

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