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The surprising way you might be losing ad revenue and what you can do about it

If you’re a “publisher” or someone that monetizes their content, ad revenue is your bread and butter. You likely eat and sleep ads – polishing your page layout and content to make sure that you’re getting the best result from your efforts. But one place you could be dropping the ball and losing out on revenue is with your networked ads.

Photo courtesy Distel

Now at this point, you might be rolling your eyes. Setting up for networked ads is pretty simple, and it’s usually easy to tell if something’s gone wrong with integration into your site. And you’d be right to think that. The issue at hand is not strictly “setting up” correctly – it’s in seemingly doing everything right yet having your hard-earned visitors either served with non-personalized ads or in many cases, not served with any ads at all.

While this might sound like something that could be caused by some one-off technical glitch, in reality, the issue might be caused by something more familiar – the GDPR. Curious? Let me explain.

With the advent of the GDPR, many industries scrambled to get their systems up to date, worried about how it might affect them. The Ad industry was no different. Recognizing the technical burden and potential confusion for individual companies within the digital ecosystem, IAB Tech Lab (the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) non-profit arm whose board is made up of some pretty well-known brands such as Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and others) developed the Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF). The Framework is meant to encourage transparency and make it easier for advertisers and publishers alike, to meet the technical and legal requirements of the law.

In practice, the TCF, when implemented correctly, provides a standardized process for collecting informed user consent preferences from individual publishers seamlessly signals these preferences across the advertising network.

The TCF has become a bit of a gold standard in the industry, and with the rollout of version 2.0 the (already extensive) TCF vendor list will include wide-reaching participants like Google.

How this affects you and your ad revenue

If you’re based in the EU or have EU users, you might have seen those cookie consent banners, boxes, and notices on various sites and may even have it installed on yours.

If you do not have a cookie consent solution set up on your site or your cookie consent platform isn’t set up to collect and correctly pass TCF consent in time, then vendors will not receive your signal, and one of two things happen:

  • In the cases where the particular ad vendors you use facilitate non-personalized ads, they will default to this and your users served with non-personalized ads.
  • In all other cases, no consent is passed at all and the user isn’t served with any ads.

As you can imagine, this results in reduced reach for your ads and can significantly affect your revenue.

What you can do about it

Well, by now you’re thinking, “goodness me this sounds complicated”, and well, it is. Fortunately, this is where CMPs (Consent Management Platforms) come in. CMPs can read and/or set user preferences and then pass this data to the vendors that the particular publisher chooses to work with. CMPs must adhere to the standard TCF protocol and policies in order to register in a centralized CMPs list, where they are also assigned a unique ID.

CMPs facilitate this process via solutions that are based on or integrate the TCF. You’re likely already familiar with these in the form of the cookie notices and banners mentioned above.

Now here’s what you can do to ensure that you’re collecting and passing valid consent preferences to vendors in time:

  • Choose an IAB validated CMP. You can use IAB’s validator chrome extension to check this, however, the validator is published to the chrome store in private mode, so you’ll need to send an email to get the link. You can find all the info on how to do that on page 4 of their user guide.
  • Choose a CMP with a straightforward but comprehensive implementation process. An independent study showed that 54% of cookie consent management were incorrectly configured or installed, resulting in a non-compliant set-up.
  • Ensure that your chosen CMP passes consent preferences in a correct and timely manner (in essence, this ties into the previous point somewhat). The communication of preferences along the network is a lightening quick and precise process, with most vendors defaulting to “consent not given” if the consent isn’t correctly passed. Most reputable CMPs will show you how you can test this if you reach out to them.

Bonus Tip:
If you have EU users – and you likely do if you’re reading this post – you’ll need to comply wholely with EU law regarding cookies, and not just advertising-related cookie consent. This means you should choose a cookie consent management software that allows you to meet industry standards (as explained above), as well as legal requirements. While the TCF allows you to correctly manage advertising-related cookies in a legally compliant way, you’ll still need to manage all other non-exempt cookies as well. This generally means blocking those cookie scripts from running until informed consent is received. It’s therefore legally essential to choose a Solution that allows you to manage cookies related to the TCF and those related to services outside of the TCF (e.g third-party integrations like social buttons, payment services, analytics etc.)

How iubenda can help

This is where what we do at iubenda is particularly helpful in a very practical way. As an IAB validated CMP, we guarantee a correct integration of the TCF within our Cookie Solution. We’ve used our legal, technical and practical experience to create a user-friendly, fast, professional software that makes it easy to accurately set-up our cookie management solution on your site.

A a matter of fact, an independent comparative study (mentioned above) on the implementation of the most popular Consent Management Platforms (CMPs) found iubenda’s Cookie Solution to be one of the only solutions by which user’s achieved 100% compliance, in every case, on major compliance points.

Our Cookie Solution allows you to easily manage cookie consent related to TCF services as well as other popular services and custom scripts simultaneously and within the same set-up.

Our incredibly customizable solution lets you:

  • easily create your brand-accurate cookie notice in minutes;
  • automatically generate a (legally required) cookie policy;
  • fully customize behavior and consent collection methods of the solution;
  • easily block collect and pass consent preferences to the IAB network of ad vendors;
  • preventively block other non-exempt cookies prior to consent (with asynchronous reactivation);
  • keep track of consent and save consent settings for each user, and more.

Read what our customers are saying here.

Want to get set up right away? Our Cookie Solution is free for up to 25K page views per month, learn more or get started here.


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This post is also available in Italian.