Google’s Mandate Requires Publishers to Collaborate with Approved Consent Vendors

google new policy for publishers

What publishers need to know

Google has a new policy requiring European-based publishers using its monetization tools to work exclusively with Consent Management Platforms (CMP) that comply with the ad industry’s standardized privacy protocol known as the Transparency Consent Framework (TCF), an industry-wide privacy agreement. This change directly impacts publishers utilizing Google AdSense, Ad Manager, and/or AdMob, as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mandates that publishers and their advertising partners must comply with specific privacy regulations. The TCF was created by a consortium of online advertising businesses led by the European branch of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to help them meet GDPR requirements. However, the TCF has encountered some challenges in the five years since the law’s enforcement began nearly to the week.

Earlier, Google’s director of product management, Peentoo Patel officially announced a new policy, which was a response to the completion of TCF 2.2. Google plans to release a list of approved consent management platform (CMP) providers in the upcoming weeks. Patel explained that the decision took into account evolving user expectations and regulatory indicators, which are expected to shape the broader online advertising landscape. Google foresees that other industry players will also make similar adjustments following their lead. Google has already begun compiling an index of approved CMPs, but an updated list of TCF-compliant vendors has yet to be provided. However, a Google representative assured that regular updates for the latter list would be released soon.

CMPs interested in certification or learning more about the approval process can do so through a Google registration form. Patel clarified that Google would continue to support publishers using the TCF but also work with ad tech providers not registered with the TCF through their Additional Consent specification. Despite the apparent simplicity of the procedure, experts have raised concerns about potential additional costs associated with the change.

In a recent interview, digital media and ad tech consultant Emily Palmer warned that if Google were to reject a major industry CMP, publishers already dealing with significant strain could face considerable challenges, and such a CMP provider would be under scrutiny. Palmer also highlighted the importance of considering criteria such as the CMP’s track record in handling publisher and user data for different purposes. Google needs to avoid crossing any boundaries that might turn them into a legal or ethical arbiter.

Jana Meron of Lioness Strategies pointed out that many publishers would have to factor in this change among their growing list of expenses. While acknowledging the significance of these changes, she expressed concerns about the complexity surrounding consent, which could lead to an inflated ad tech environment detrimental to premium publishers.

Impact on Established Publishers

The changes in Google’s policy could have a negative effect on ad income from users in the UK and the European Economic Area (EEA). There are two potential scenarios, and the outcomes are currently uncertain. In the first scenario, some publishers might choose not to follow Google’s guidelines. In the second scenario, publishers may use Google-approved CMPs to implement TCF, but users might not provide their consent. In both cases, it is likely that Google would serve non-personalized ads (NPA) instead of personalized ads (PA).

It’s crucial to acknowledge that even though the process may seem simple, there are potential areas of concern surrounding the update, particularly regarding the possibility of additional costs and the significant power wielded by Google. Emily Palmer, a digital media and ad tech consultant, expressed concerns that if Google were to reject a major industry CMP, it could create significant difficulties for publishers already under considerable strain, effectively putting such a CMP vendor on notice. She also pointed out that it would be interesting to see if Google considers criteria such as the CMP’s track record of handling publisher and user data for different purposes. Google needs to be cautious not to overstep boundaries and become a legal or ethical arbiter.

Jana Meron highlighted that many publishers would have to include these new considerations in their already growing list of expenses. While acknowledging the importance of these changes, she also emphasized that the concept of consent is becoming increasingly complex. This could potentially lead to more people getting involved in a bloated ad tech environment, which may negatively impact premium publishers.

According to data analysis group NewZoo, mobile devices are projected to contribute to about half of all income for certain publishers worldwide by 2022, with approximately 12% of this income coming from Europe. While specific numbers are not available, it can be assumed that Europe contributes a significant portion of ad income, comparable to that of in-app purchases (IAP). The extent to which a publisher’s earnings are impacted by these changes will determine how they prioritize the necessary adjustments and how quickly they comply with the new regulations. Moreover, Google and other companies may eventually decide to implement similar standards on an international scale.

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