Alan Chapell

Alan Chapell, President of Chapell & Associates, looks into his crystal ball and discusses how legal issues may shift the mobile future.

Alan Chapell
Expert Tips on Navigating Privacy and Regulation in Mobile Advertising

Alan Chapell serves as the Chief Privacy Officer and outside counsel to digital media companies. With Apple’s recent changes and other potential regulation hurdles facing the industry, we sat down with Alan to give his thoughts on what might come next. Also, he has a side gig as an Indie Rocker - and just for fun, we asked him about that as well.

The iOS14 privacy changes have led to a lot of industry buzz. As a legal counsel for a bunch of companies in the mobile world, what would you tell advertisers and publishers to focus on in regards to these changes?

Historically, there has been a heavy reliance by advertisers and publishers on ad tech vendors to help them ensure they meet compliance obligations. But increasingly with the changes coming from the platforms (not to mention the changes in law over the past few years), advertisers and publishers may not be able to rely on vendors to the same extent. In other words, the privacy rules imposed over the past 3-4 years have increasingly required that publishers and advertisers take ownership of their own compliance obligations when it comes to digital media. 

That trend is likely to create issues for adtech. Privacy is only one issue, but there are a number of drivers that may push advertisers toward the “walled gardens”. In general, large brand advertisers with the largest budgets are going to search for the highest ROI, lowest risk, and easiest solution to implement. For that reason, adtech companies are going to need to continue to innovate in order to compete with the walled gardens.

But not all advertisers are the same. Niche advertisers may not fare as well in a digital media world where the walled gardens are their only option.  Brand advertisers generally have much larger ad budgets, while smaller companies with new product offerings will have trouble as the cost of advertising will become too high - meaning, not everyone can redirect their money to a Super Bowl ad buy. Take “pre-prepared meals”, for example. They have a market, but they aren’t for everyone. This makes large channels potentially cost prohibitive for niche advertisers. There are all kinds of tradeoffs being made when it comes to privacy and digital advertising. And in too many forums, these nuances are lost in favor of the “tastes great” vs “less filling” type debates. 

More holistically, what recommendations would you give to companies to accomplish their goals while staying privacy focused.

The big thing missing here is the understanding of the consumer impact. The ad ecosystem needs to do a better job of being transparent and communicating privacy information and impact to the consumer. 

Data minimization is also important. The winners in adtech will be able to figure out how to do a little with a lot. The game will change - without microtargeting, advertisers will have to take what minimal information they have and adjust their ads to make them more efficient. For example, you can improve audience targeting by adjusting the creative in ways that would be more relevant. I know of a few adtech companies that are working on increasing relevance with relatively little data. I’d like to see more investment in that area across adtech.

Are there any major shifts in consumer behavior you've seen over the past year (during the Pandemic) that you think will stick around for the long term?

From a mobile standpoint, the work from home movement is not going away. This means a continuation in mobile productivity tools and apps like Zoom and Slack. One of the more interesting changes could be with outside of the home experiences. The growth in streaming has changed how people watch movies, and it seems like they are here to stay. Movie studios will have to adjust by creating “experiences” to get people to leave their couch and go to the theater (remember 3D glasses?). As a touring musician as well as a music fan, I worry about how long it might take for my favorite venues to come back. But ultimately, there’s nothing like the shared experience of going to see your favorite band with your favorite people. 

Put on your futurist hat: make some predictions about the mobile future when it comes to regulation?

You will see a version of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) adopted in more and more jurisdictions across the globe. Right now, some U.S. states have crafted privacy laws which at least borrow from the GDPR.  

I often get asked about whether there’ll be a comprehensive GDPR-like Federal U.S. privacy law in the near future. Actually, I’ve literally been asked that question for going on 15 years as a privacy professional. And the answer is usually the same. It’s unlikely THIS year, but there might be momentum for one NEXT year. Candidly, I think there’s as good a chance of a privacy law in the U.S. in 2021 as I’ve ever seen. There’s fair Congressional support for one, good momentum for reigning in the Internet Giants and increasing pressure on the U.S. from the EU and elsewhere. The time is ripe.

Data Localization poses a concerning trend. Russia and China, for example, specifically have laws that restrict movement of data outside of their borders. But even in a place like the European Union, I’m seeing more and more pressure from EU companies to localize data in the EEA or UK. As you may know, the EU doesn’t allow personal data to be transferred outside the EU except to places which have adequate privacy laws (or otherwise provide suitable measures to safeguard the data). So data transfers from the EU into the U.S. are under pressure - in part because the U.S. doesn’t have a strong GDPR-like national privacy law. 

Apple News and Samsung Daily are two examples of integrated on-device experiences that offer advertisers native device opportunities. What are your thoughts about the future of these on-device experiences?

These sound like a unique and awesome opportunity to give the OEM and carrier control over the user experience. If carriers and OEMs can continue to innovate, it would allow them the ability to truly differentiate their offerings through their device influence. That would be hugely powerful and give them bigger control of the market.

Last, as a musician, what advice would you give to other aspiring musicians navigating the mobile space?

First, being a musician is wonderful. Technology has enabled musicians to make music and get their music out there in a way that didn’t exist even a few years ago. I just recorded an album where my band was in a recording studio in Brooklyn and I was singing from Sausalito. That type of collaboration from thousands of miles away wasn’t possible even a few years ago. But my advice: be yourself. There is an audience for nearly any type of music.  So my advice would be to “be the best yourself you can be musically”. And then focus on finding your audience. Oh yeah, and follow my band Chapell on Spotify.  

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