Advertising has become the boogeyman, and it’s not hard to see why. Fundamentally linked to the collection of consumer information, advertising is guilty by data breach association. And although data breaches are a well-established phenomenon, the Cambridge Analytica scandal thrust consumer data privacy into the limelight like never before. After compromising the personal information of 87 million users, Facebook has perceivably triggered a wave of negative sentiment.
According to a study conducted by Sailthru following the scandal, the majority of respondents indicated they were very uncomfortable with brands buying and selling their personal data.
Further, the majority of respondents indicated that they felt the US government should regulate how companies use personal data.
In the time since the scandal, continued data breaches have only served to exacerbate consumer concerns. However, beyond this general distrust, there are also substantial costs associated with the continued exposure of consumer information. According to IBM’s 2018 Cost of Data Breach Report, the US saw the highest average cost of a data breach. While these figures are already substantial, the cost of a so-called “mega-breach” can reach hundreds of millions.
But what does all of this have to do with the digital advertising industry? To understand the implications of data collection in the realm of digital ads, it’s best to start with exploring the predominant programmatic buy infrastructure.
How Advertisers Access and Use Your Personal Data
The digital advertising ecosystem is a complex network of advertisers, publishers, and countless intermediaries. A well-developed process governs existing bid-based platforms:
- A publisher uses software known as a Supply Side Platform (SSP) to organize their available ad space.
- A brand works with an advertising agency that represents them and organizes their purchases via a Demand Side Platform (DSP).
- Any time an end user (consumer) visits a publisher’s website, the publisher generates an ad request. Information about that consumer is a component of this ad request - this information is stored in the publisher's data management platform (DMP).
- Brands typically use their own data management platforms to store information about their customers as well.
- Exchanges work to make matches between buyers and sellers using set campaign parameters.
- Ad servers are used to retrieve advertisements from wherever the brand is storing them, executing the transfer to a consumer’s browser.
For many, this infrastructure is considered unethical due to the potential collection, sharing, or reselling of personal data. Something that undoubtedly occurs in the industry. While this diffusion of information falls short of a full-blown data breach, the result is comparable. Consumer information is shared with parties that haven’t received explicit consent.
CodeFund Introduces Ethical Advertising
Now that the concept of unethical advertising has been explored, we can dive into its moral equivalent. But what makes a digital ad platform ethical? It’s a question that progressive platforms like CodeFund have been passionately working to answer. Founded as an advertising solution for contributors to the open source ecosystem, the CodeFund platform is guided by a mandate of altruism. As a non-bidding advertising market, CodeFund does things differently. And new solutions are needed, digital ads aren’t going anywhere despite burgeoning negative rhetoric.
According to eMarketer, total digital ad spending in the US will grow 19% to reach $129.34 billion this year. That equates to 54.2% of total ad spending in the US. It’s apparent that advertisers leverage the value of consumer data and rely heavily on the insight it affords. However, this valuable ecosystem continues to enable an alarming breach of consumer privacy. In contrast, the CodeFund platform doesn’t collect any consumer data.
In fact, CodeFund doesn’t track or profile ad viewers nor does it remarket or resell user data - because there’s no data to sell. Alternatively, the CodeFund platform displays only geographically relevant ads to the developer's that advertisers want to reach. Ads are also unobstructed, meaning they only display text - minimizing interruptions to the user experience.
Perhaps most notably, the platform is 100% open source, meaning anyone can access the source code. This functionality in itself sets CodeFund apart from the notoriously opaque world of digital advertising.
The Ethical Path Forward
While CodeFund currently caters to the developer community, it’s open source platform is ripe for implementation across countless industries. And as mounting criticism challenges industry incumbents, there is an apparent opportunity to pursue more ethical advertising infrastructure. But as with any undertaking, challenges exist.
The question remains: In a mature advertising ecosystem, how can ethics change the predominantly negative narrative? Ultimately, others must first see the value in ethical advertising - including consumers. With a shift in perspective, the concept can be leveraged to drive significant change. In the interim, people must demand more from incumbent market participants while supporting those pursuing ethical infrastructure iterations.
If you're interested in exploring the world of ethical advertising, check out CodeFund! They’re happy to show others how ethical ads can alter the way consumers view the world of digital advertising.