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Personal ads crucial for SMEs and other small organizations

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As the association for data and marketing, DDMA has been committed to the responsible use of data for more than 15 years. Together with our members we strive for a fair, safe and transparent online advertising ecosystem. It must be clear to consumers what happens to their data and why certain advertisements are shown. Organizations should not collect and use personal data if they cannot explain the reason for it to the customer. We therefore welcome the Digital Services Act, which introduces transparency obligations for targeted online advertisements. Only with more transparency can we restore consumer confidence, writes Diana Janssen.

But a ban or restriction on personalized advertising is not the way forward and, moreover, harmful to SMEs, innovative entrepreneurs and other small organisations. It is often forgotten these smaller organisations can also be affected by a ban. They personalise advertisements to easily reach their current or potential customers, raise funds, and inform them. At the moment, there is no realistic alternative. In many cases, their financial capacity is limited, making the effectiveness of online advertising vital. By being able to effectively advertise with a limited budget, small entrepreneurs can keep up on the internet dominated by large parties.

Precisely because of the wide range of sectors and entrepreneurs that could be affected by a ban, caution is crucial. Small organizations must retain the opportunity to bring their products, services and information to the attention of consumers. The business community and politicians must therefore jointly strive for the use of personalised advertising that better safeguards the position of consumers and entrepreneurs.

We share the concerns in the European Parliament about the current advertising ecosystem. The large amount of disinformation spread via the major digital platforms needs to be tackled. This has led to calls in Brussels for a ban on targeted or personalized advertising altogether. However, spreading misinformation and relevant, personalised advertising are two completely different things. In a well-functioning advertising ecosystem, there is a need for personalised content, for example based on behaviour and search history. Personalisation ensures that you see content that is relevant to you, in the overload of information that people are confronted with online.

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The business community and other sectors are working hard on high-quality personalised advertisements, which require as little personal data as possible. As an industry association, it is our job to actively disseminate good examples and help organisations use data responsibly, as we do with our Data Use Principles Map and workshop on data ethics. Privacy-friendly personalised advertising, where the customer has control over his data, is possible within the strict rules of the GDPR for data minimisation.

Politicians can help the business community with information and tools for compliance with existing rules and their enforcement. A simple ban or restriction of personalised advertising does not help the consumer. It only makes it too difficult for small organisations to reach their audience.

Diana Janssen is director of DDMA, the Netherlands' largest trade association for data-driven marketing, service and sales.

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