How tech publisher Future is getting 95 percent of its audience to consent to ad tracking

In order to nudge as much of its audience to consent under the General Data Protection Regulation, Future Publishing has been tweaking its messaging, user interface and consent-management platform since the end of May to get its opt-in to ad tracking rate up to 95 percent, according to the publisher.

Typically, publishers using CMPs are seeing between 70 percent and 80 percent of their audience agree to share their data, according to Brian Kane, co-founder and chief operating officer of Sourcepoint, which provides consent management and ad-block messaging software for publishers. But rates can be much lower.

Since the end of May, Future has A/B tested five different variations over eight weeks across 99 percent of its European impressions, starting with its eight most popular sites including TechRadar, T3 and PC Gamer, before rolling out to others. Each test ran for about a week, according to the publisher.

The consent rate jumped most significantly from 70 percent to 90 percent when the publisher changed the consent message from a banner box at the bottom of the page to an overlay, as shown in the examples below.

“With the harsher solution, the overlay, you accept the worse [that more audiences would bounce], but that wasn’t the case,” said Jamie Samuel, head of programmatic and commercial operations. “The overlay is more visible so users can consent quicker and get to the content. We learned from our ad blocking tests that users want to get to the content as quickly as possible, so we kept the wording short. Similar things were said about the [banner] cookie message: No one touched it because they didn’t think it was part of the site.”

Future’s overlay message increased opt-in rates to 90 percent.
Example of Future’s banner message.

Future added the company logo to its messages for the first two weeks of testing before adding in each site’s logo too, which helped edge up consent from 90 percent to 95 percent, said Samuel.

“Generic messages are less compelling than customized, on-brand messages,” said Sourcepoint’s Kane. He gives the example of a publishing client in Ohio, who added a picture of Ohio-born basketball player LeBron James to its anti-ad block messages and saw an increase of 5 percentage point in people turning off their ad blocker. “Similar principles [to ad blocking] apply: Publishers work to develop their brand, that brand is their asset, to approach consent without that same emphasis on brand and loyalty with the audience is foolish.”

As Digiday reported, inventory with information about consent attached is regarded as more premium than inventory that isn’t, and advertisers are willing to bid higher for it. More publishers are adopting CMPs in order to be GDPR-compliant, currently, around 31 percent of U.K. publishers have a CMP according to Adzerk.

Future has been testing consent with several providers, currently, most of the sites are running on Oath’s CMP while it migrates the rest of its sites over.

Future doesn’t run any programmatic ads in Europe on its site Music Radar so it kept this site as a control to make sure consent messages weren’t too disruptive on audience bounce rates, dwell times and CPM rates. According to Samuel, it has seen no negative impact.

The starkest variation in Future’s titles was between PC Gamer, with closer to an 80 percent opt-in, and TechRadar, with north of a 90 percent opt-in rate. “The PC Gamer audience is more active on Reddit, they really understand what’s going on,” said Samuel.

However, Future’s high level of consent is helped by the fact it gets a high portion of traffic through search. The publisher creates content that is based on what people are searching for to drive commerce sales. Between 85 percent and 90 percent of referral traffic to TechRadar comes from search, according to Samuel, and because people are keen to read a specific article, they are more likely to click through to consent to get to the content quickly.

According to Samuel, the publisher will continue tweaking its messaging, and ahead of Black Friday, will remove the consent messages and the ads from some of its sites, where it will monetize users through e-commerce instead.

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