COVID-19 Will Force The Ad Industry To Focus On What Really Matters

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Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Jay Friedman, president and partner at Goodway Group.

During this unprecedented time, it’s important to keep an eye on the future. Where will we be in a few weeks and months, following the inflection point?

I would call any major event like this a “full cleanse of nonsense in the ecosystem.” Once the dust settles later this year, are we going to be talking about blockchain in the bid stream, DTC and other shiny objects that sidetracked the industry over the past few years?

Something like this resets us. Thankfully.

Trends such as privacy, identity, fake news and the future of work will remain at the forefront, and that’s OK because it shows how important these things are to the industry. In the end, COVID-19 will not only reset our talk tracks, but it will help us to move forward with more focus on what’s actually important.

Privacy legislation

A coalition of advertising groups asked the California attorney general to delay the enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), citing that a “temporary deferral in enforcement of the CCPA would relieve many pressures and stressors placed on organizations due to COVID-19.”

While I understand the added pressure that CCPA compliance puts on companies, this legislation didn’t exactly sneak up on us. There are currently no plans to delay enforcement, but even if legislators reconsider, the CCPA is something we’ll all need to comply with sooner than later, and we’re already complying with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

In fact, COVID-19 is furthering some of these discussions. Data protection and privacy laws are informing responses from government and public health officials. For example, contact tracing identifies and monitors anyone who may have come into contact with an infected person. The Center for Disease Control has also begun asking airlines for personal information of passengers on potentially infected flights. And location data is becoming important to help track the spread and prevalence of social distancing.

These new applications will focus our conversations and actions on the implications of consumer privacy and when to best act in the public interest.


Amid the call to delay privacy legislation are also calls for Google to delay the deprecation of third-party cookies in 2022. Google’s response? No. At least for now.

I’ve already made it known that I see this change as a huge opportunity for publishers, not to mention that we’re already living in a mobile-first world. How could we not continue to think and devise strategies for identity beyond the cookie?

Fake news

Will this pandemic accelerate how we filter fake news moving forward? When it comes to our health, we can’t afford to read false information.

It seems like the major platforms are taking notice. Facebook created an information hub to provide official information from global health organizations and is providing the World Health Organization (WHO) with free ad space to stop the spread of fake news. Twitter has also increased its use of automated technology to remove potentially misleading information around COVID-19.

Why would they want to let it go back to normal when this is over? This will also benefit the industry overall as fake news still gives us a bad reputation.

Future of work

The world is working from home, which is of particular interest to me as I’ve been running Goodway Group’s 350-plus staff remotely for the past 12 years. We’ve all had at least a taste of this type of work. You can’t have a weekly meeting with residents of the United States, United Kingdom and APAC in person. Yet a stigma around remote work has persisted. And just as with any stereotype, once you’ve been exposed, you’re much less likely to be prejudiced.

With the challenges ahead, many will embrace the future of work as a cost-cutting measure and way to preserve employee health. We already saw the holding companies pull out of Cannes in October, which led to the cancellation of the event altogether. If public health concerns persist, will companies require employees to come into the office if working from home is an option?

COVID-19 has changed life as we know it, and while grim at the moment, we will emerge stronger and better. Beyond ad tech, we will see a renewed focus on public health and deeper considerations related to the gig economy and sick leave. These moments are what define us, and innovation is what will put us ahead.

Follow Jay Friedman (@jaymfriedman) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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