Chariese Blue

Running a small business is an uphill battle. I’m competing against global behemoths with nearly limitless access to capital. It’s no surprise 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years, and only about 25% make it to 15 years or more.

And yet, policymakers in Washington, D.C., are poised to make the climb even steeper, by undermining one of the few equalizers left that help small businesses compete against large chains: targeted digital advertising.

Under the guise of protecting consumers, policymakers in Washington are pushing for legislation, including the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA), that would gut the effectiveness of the digital tools my small business — and millions like it — depend on to reach and bring in new customers.

Back before the emergence of digital advertising platforms, small businesses’ best options for advertising were to take out an ad in the newspaper or cut a commercial — both wildly expensive, untargeted media that wasted a ton of money reaching people not interested in your business. Large chains and global brands can afford to play that game, but many small businesses can’t. That’s why data-driven digital ads, which allow businesses to spend far less to reach the narrower audiences most likely to respond, are such a game-changer that help my business go toe-to-toe with the big restaurant chains.

In fact, surveys show customers prefer tailored, relevant ads to generic ones. That’s why proposals that would block ad platforms from effectively using digital data to serve personalized ads would make for a worse internet experience. Protecting consumer privacy online is vitally important, but lawmakers need to take a thoughtful and careful approach that doesn’t just gut digital advertising and tip the scales back in favor of the corporations who can afford to flood the market with untargeted ads, suffocating small businesses like mine.

Research has found more than 150,000 jobs in Colorado are tied to the digital economy, making up an economic impact of more than $54.5 billion. These jobs can be found everywhere throughout our state; social media strategy is an ingrained part of business these days, supporting everyone from farmers and doctors to veterinarians and auto workers. Legislation like ADPPA would jeopardize this booming digital ecosystem. Times are turbulent, and there are real anxieties about the economy, but making digital advertising a lot less effective is hardly the solution; these proposals will just hurt small businesses while making sure the most powerful grow stronger.

I share lawmakers’ desire to protect consumer privacy, but we can’t regulate a dynamic, complicated, marketplace like digital advertising with dragnet legislation like ADPPA. We need a more thoughtful and careful approach, otherwise all we’d do is give more power to the big corporations, while small businesses like mine suffer. Washington should give a lot of thought to how we regulate the digital economy, lest businesses like mine get crushed.

Chariese Blue is owner of Urban Central Marketplace in Colorado Springs and is a member of Internet for Growth

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