‘Ad tech players collect so much data on children – and it should scare the shit out of parents’

The founder of a ‘kids safe’ marketing platform has warned parents about data-harvesting by ad tech companies on children, saying the numbers would “horrify” them.

Dylan Collins, the founder of SuperAwesome, said it “should scare the shit out of parents” about what data is being collected on under-13-year-olds, despite legislation in many markets that prevents ad retargeting of those under that age.

Speaking ahead of his talk at Mumbrella360 Asia in Singapore this week, Collins said ad tech companies would be more likely to encounter data privacy backlashes from digital-savvy children than adult consumers.

He said: “You’re going to see an increasing generational gap [between parents and their kids]. You will see more reports about how much data is being captured by ad tech players on five-year-olds and six-year-olds and I think that’s going to horrify parents. And it should scare the shit out of them about what data is being collected on their children.

“I think anyone who is over 21 probably just accepts that data-harvesting is part and parcel of how apps and social networks work, but as they start to think of the ramifications of that and on their kids, they should genuinely be pretty horrified. You can kind of feel it in the air with the backlash against some of the big tech companies. This awareness of data privacy among kids and families will just keep getting bigger and bigger.”

He added: “Kids are becoming a huge threat to the mainstream digital media industry because as they grow up, they are not going to accept what we have taken to be ‘normal’. I think the data privacy train is just speeding up right now.”

Founded in London in 2013, SuperAwesome now operates across Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam through its subsidiary TotallyAwesome, allowing children’s brands to buy digital ads that matches a publisher’s content rather than a data-targeted audience – therefore protecting kids’ privacy.

According to a report by PwC, commissioned by SuperAwesome, the kids’ digital advertising market will reach US$1.2 billion globally by 2019 and is currently growing at a rate of 25 per cent year-on-year.  

Meanwhile, in Asia-Pacific, TotallyAwesome estimates that youngsters spend on average 24 minutes more time online than watching TV during the week, and will be online for two hours and 54 minutes during an average school day.

As a result of this shift in content consumption, the children’s media and advertising market has become “very challenging for brands”, said Collins.

“The market has become hugely fragmented and that’s the huge challenge for brands because five or seven years ago it was largely centralised around TV or online you could buy from Nickelodeon. But now they have access to an infinite amount of content. They’re on gaming apps, video apps – literally anything you can imagine.

Dylan Collins: “Kids are becoming a huge threat to the mainstream digital media industry.”

“Most of what has been built on the internet was made with the assumption that kids weren’t on the internet. But the reality is that children are shaping everything from what’s on Snapchat, to Musically and YouTube.”

Although children’s privacy laws are dictated on a country-by-country basis, Collins added that the onset of the European Union’s impending GDPR laws could set a new “gold standard” globally in terms of protecting online privacy.

“There is a section in GDPR that specifically deals with kids. That part of GDPR takes the US law – the gold standard – and applies it across the EU. In Europe every country is allowed to choose how they define a child between the ages 13 and 16. Germany has already picked 16: this zero data on digital advertising is going to increase quite significantly across Europe. The UK and Ireland have picked 13, but many countries in Europe will pick the highest common denominator. And I think over time, data protection for children will creep upwards.”

For those of you who haven’t yet done so – to purchase your tickets here and join the 1,000 plus people already registered to attend the event this week at the Marina Bay Sands (November 7-9).


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