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It’s not about the TCF, it’s about the future of advertising

Ben Barokas, Co-Founder and CEO
February 3, 2022

The Belgian DPA’s ruling on the IAB’s framework should be a wakeup call to the whole industry. What got us here, isn’t going to get us where we want to go.

This week, the Belgian Data Protection Authority (APD) ruling about the IAB Europe’s TCF brings a set of questions about the foundation of the advertising ecosystem to the forefront. 

This decision is only nominally about the TCF. It’s really about the future of advertising. 

Since the early days of the internet, advertising — or more specifically, the combination of data and attention — has been the fuel that enabled the proliferation of content and the digital utility that we all enjoy today.

The advent of programmatic marketing brought great promise for driving scale and efficiency. As an early pioneer of the RTB protocol, I was on the front lines for the industry discussion, planning a technology implementation that has set the stage for the $766 billion global ad industry.

But much like other innovative technologies, the powerful tools we’ve created need to consistently evolve to ensure they are adapting to the new environment they operate within.  

This recent ruling by the APD is an urgent reminder that we as an industry still have work to do to protect the ecosystem of digital utility that has been built over the past 30 years. 

Since 2015, when I left Google to create Sourcepoint, I have been loudly advocating for transparency, and consistent and clear communication about value exchange. This ruling should serve as a wake up call to anyone who may have questioned the validity of transparency as a strategy, and it’s a reminder that clear communication with consumers can no longer be considered a nice to have. These are table stakes.  While the ruling outlines what a regulator expects from us, it is what consumers expect from us as well.

As we plot our path forward, it is critical that we recommit to transparency as an industry, and work to find alternate means to effectively help consumers understand the use of data.  

Our commitment has to be broader than regulatory compliance, and it needs to be rooted in data ethics. We often say, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”  But we need to walk the talk. Bylines and press releases need to be replaced with industry working groups and technical solutions that allow us to continue to innovate, finding ways in which we can deliver personalized experience that is respectful of user choice.

I would welcome the opportunity to engage in dialogue with my peers. For those who will be at IAB ALM next week, we have a great opportunity to sync on this critical industry topic. Please reach out at ben@sourcepoint.com if you want to meet up.

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