The Impact of Net Neutrality on Advertising Performance, A Thought Experiment

Net Neutrality has been officially repealed today. Like most people, I have the same questions concerning its impact on the consumer.

  • Will internet service providers block certain legal websites?
  • Will certain websites be throttled?
  • Will service providers employ a paid prioritization model for certain companies?

The discussion on these questions' consumer impact is vast and has been exhausted with many plausible hypotheticals.

As a marketer responsible for thousands of ad dollars, my primary concern is how will these net neutrality questions, enacted in any combination or degree, impact online advertising performance?

You can also carry this to offline advertising as many companies, even myself, use offline tactics to drive online engagement.

If your website is blocked...

...well, you're screwed.

I doubt it would come to something that obvious, but who knows. For someone who follows the political landscape, it wouldn't surprise me. Regardless of your politics, in this time of extreme tribalism, it's a possibility worth exploring.

How may Net Neutrality impact your core customer demographic?

Suppose you market to a demographic that doesn't have a lot of economic clout - they have a low HHI.

And the ISP offers a paid prioritization model that only has a few news websites available, which your demo doesn't regularly frequent.

This is a situation that could potentially hinder your programmatic display advertising - driving engagement way down and costs way up.

Consider Adwords' Search Network Ads

It's a critical channel - especially for me since I manage thousands of ad dollars a day for various clients.

The question to ask is: Will Net Neutrality hurt your ad's Quality Score if your website is throttled?

Well, as Google as expressed in their help docs, landing page load speed impacts User Experience.

As any experienced SEM marketer knows, User Experience is a component of an ad's Quality Score.

Therefore, do throttled websites have a lower Quality Score since they load slower?

Why should we care?

Because it could cost you more money!

Having a low Quality Score means that you have to bid higher for those clicks. This means a higher cost per click, cost per conversion, cost per lead, etc. And because these KPIs are components of customer acquisition cost, it will cost you more to gain a new customer.

You may like paying more for customers, but I sure as hell don't.

So if you're a business owner, you should care.

The same goes for SEO

Page load speed is an easy fix that directly impacts SEO. You don't have to have any true SEO prowess, just a fast host, solid website, and a CDN doesn't hurt.

If you're at the mercy of some ISP throttling your site, all that matters less.

At the end of the day...

I don't know what's going to happen; neither does anyone else.

We just have to wait and see if the ISPs do anything shitty and pay attention to what the data says.

But like any marketing professional, it's quintessential to survey the landscape, protect my clients' KPIs, and increase their ROI.

That's why I have these questions.

I solve problems facing political campaigns.

Can I help you? I won't know until we have a conversation about your needs - so let's talk.