Google’s GDPR Consent Tool Will Limit Publishers To 12 Ad Tech Vendors

Google disclosed how it will help publishers obtain tracking consent from users during a call last week with the IAB Europe GDPR Transparency and Consent steering committee, and its approach could spell trouble for media and ad tech companies.

The consent gathering tool, called “Funding Choices,” is in beta with some DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) and AdSense customers, even though the deadline for compliance is just three weeks away. It restricts the number of supply chain partners a publisher can share consent with to just 12 vendors, sources with knowledge of the product tell AdExchanger.

Google’s consent tool is similar to IAB-registered solutions called consent management platforms (CMPs). Funding Choices started as an anti-ad blocking technology for publishers, similar to ecosystem vendors like Admiral and Sourcepoint that were among the first CMPs.

The IAB Europe and IAB Tech Lab introduced the CMP category as part of its GDPR Transparency and Consent Framework, released on April 25. And despite having only 15 registered vendors with the IAB Europe as of Thursday, publisher consent technology is poised to be a hotbed of activity – and controversy – as ad servers scramble to help their customers prepare for GDPR and the EU’s pending ePrivacy law.

The Google consent interface greets site visitors with a request to use data to tailor advertising, with equally prominent “no” and “yes” buttons. If a reader declines to be tracked, he or she sees a notice saying the ads will be less relevant and asking to “agree” or go back to the previous page. According to a source, one research study on this type of opt-out mechanism led to opt-out rates of more than 70%.

Google’s and other consent-gathering solutions are basically a series of pop-up notifications that provide a mechanism for publishers to provide clear disclosure and consent in accordance with data regulations.

Google Funding Choices is not required for publishers, because they can use another CMP solution or develop their own. Other CMPs have similar processes for securing consent and establishing dialogue between a site and a visitor.

But publishers using Google’s default consent technology will only be allowed to pass data to 12 supply chain partners, including Google itself, SSPs, exchanges, ad servers, DSPs, DMPs, plug-ins, tracking and measurement tags and third-party data suppliers, sources tell AdExchanger.

And many small to mid-sized publishers are likely use Google’s out-of-the-box CMP and buying model because it’s an easy, reliable way to comply with GDPR without investing time and resources.

Twelve may sound like plenty of vendors, but the policy would severely restrict the partner ecosystem if it were widely adopted by DFP customers. Time Inc., Business Insider and ESPN, for instance, respectively have 153, 68 and 22 homepage partner tags, according to Ghostery data.

DFP customers, particularly small or mid-size publishers reliant on the programmatic ecosystem and without the means to develop or employ a separate CMP, would end up culling ad tech partners. The typical publisher will partner with SSPs, DSPs, DMPs, ad servers and measurement vendors.

Google’s rationale for capping vendors at 12 is that under GDPR guidance, any tech intermediary must be named in the publisher’s opt-in notification, and the company’s beta testing has shown users are more likely to reject tracking the more partners are listed, with consent dropping to negligible rates when more than 12 vendors are included, according to a source with knowledge of the product.

Google allows a range of optional tools to gather consent and “will also continue to engage with IAB Europe on their Transparency & Consent Framework, as well as work to ensure industry solutions are interoperable with Google’s publisher ad serving products,” a spokesperson told AdExchanger in an email.

Expect some media and tech companies to try to push publishers away from Google’s consent solution.

Axel Springer, Europe’s largest news publisher, has an in-house CMP solution it calls an “opt-in layer” and is in discussions with other publishers about allowing them to use an open-source version of the technology, Moritz Holzgraefe, chief operating officer of corporate digital platforms, told AdExchanger.

Axel Springer is one of only two publishers, alongside the Scandinavian newspaper company Schibsted Media, to publicly adopt the IAB Europe and IAB Tech Lab GDPR framework.

Google’s consent technology isn’t integrated with the IAB Europe GDPR Consent and Transparency Framework, further isolating the programmatic tech ecosystem from Google supply and demand.

Publishers considering which CMPs to work with and which GDPR framework to join should seek open options and not closed-off supply chains, Holzgraefe said.

The question isn’t new for Axel Springer, which switched from the Google DoubleClick stack to AppNexus last year, preferring a flexible model where it could influence standards, despite Google’s advantages in data and scale.

Publishers and tech companies backing the IAB Europe standard will seize on Google’s CMP as a way to pitch their solution as a more flexible and open option. But Google has stark advantages, in that its ad exchange and ad network offerings can often generate superior yield.

The planned consent tool isn’t the only aggressive move Google has made with regard to GDPR.

Last week, Google alerted advertisers it would sharply limit use of the DoubleClick advertising ID, which brands and agencies used to pull log files from DoubleClick so campaigns could be cohesively measured across other ad servers, incentivizing buyers to consolidate spend on the Google stack.

Google also raised eyebrows last month with a new policy insisting that all DFP publishers grant it status as a data controller, giving Google the right to collect and use site data, whereas other online tech companies – mere data processors – can only receive limited data assigned to them by the publisher, i.e., the data controller.

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1 Comment

  1. This is another example of Google using its monopoly position in the market to gain even more control. Publishers need to fight back and use any other solution but Google’s. Axel Springer, mention in the article, has an open source CMP solution that they call an “opt-in layer” that sounds like a good alternative but so does the IAB’s