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Data-Driven Digital Advertising is Crucial to Entrepreneurs and Under Threat One owner's opinion on legislation to restrict or eliminate data and targeted advertising and how that impacts small business and innovation.

By Jesse Lewis

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Did you know that nine out 10 small businesses depend on digital advertising? Less expensive and more efficient than traditional TV, radio, or print ads, data-driven digital advertising also saves American consumers time and money, personalizing our online experiences and connecting shoppers with products and services almost instantaneously. 

My business, District Performance & Physio, depends on digital ads. We do health care differently from most physical therapists and try to help people who haven't been able to get the help they need elsewhere. To do that, we rely on targeted digital advertising. Not only can I reduce costs, but I can also ensure that prospective patient conversion rates are high in this fiercely competitive industry.

That's why I joined Internet for Growth, a nationwide coalition of small businesses, independent online publishers, and content creators advocating for digital advertising in Washington, D.C., where Congress is considering data privacy and other legislation that could have grave consequences for innovation, jobs, and the digital economy on Main Street.  

Digital advertising, enabling commerce online and off, represents almost two-thirds of all advertising and just a few years from now will represent almost three-quarters, according to some estimates. Advertising opportunities for small businesses are expanding on streaming, gaming, and other platforms. It may sound strange now, but the "metaverse" is going to transform media and e-commerce.   

Fortunately, over time, digital technologies have become easier to access for the average American, helping entrepreneurs from every background break down barriers, reach new customers with unique products and perspectives, and support themselves and their families.  At no other time in history has so much commercial and creative power rested in the hands of one person.  

That's what Internet for Growth members, everyone from restaurant owners to realtors, are telling members of Congress in dozens of meetings with U.S. Representatives, Senators, and their staffs. Bills to restrict or eliminate data and targeted advertising – to punish a few Big Tech companies – would hurt small businesses without the same resources to withstand heavy regulations and penalties. 

Widespread data restrictions and anti-advertising policies would harm virtually every industry, companies of every size, as well as the ordinary internet user.  Digital advertising supports thousands of dollars of free content and services for every American annually. 

While it's true some companies have been enormously successful, the advertising landscape is changing every day, and competition is growing fast.  Yet it's also true that the most successful platforms have enabled small businesses to access enormous audiences, or narrow ones, in much the same way traditional media always has – but better. 

Other bills in Congress would destroy advertising ecosystems that have evolved over decades, harnessing virtually limitless opportunities across the World Wide Web.  Without Google or Facebook, many small businesses would be unable to advertise at all, and more options are emerging every day. Today, almost every company is a tech company, and the most consumer-centric, such as retail and grocery brands, are capitalizing on digital advertising markets.

Let's not forget the "creator economy" of digital publishers, video streamers, and podcasters that's blossomed from a variety of ad-supported media platforms. Not only do Internet for Growth members buy online ads, but they also earn ad revenue from digital content they produce and distribute online. A host of technologies, from email and web builders to sales and customer relations solutions, blend seamlessly with digital advertising to help the enterprising small businesses owner or creator become a dynamo of productivity. 

All these tools depend on data. Without it, many of our members would be out of business.  Main Street would suffer. The U.S. would lose our leading edge. That's why Internet for Growth supports a national privacy bill that would preempt conflicting state laws, provide clear guidance for small businesses, and ensure that data – and data-driven digital advertising – remain safe, abundant, and accessible.

We're asking Congress to avoid sweeping restrictions that could destroy the ad-supported economy millions of entrepreneurs and small businesses need to compete and succeed.

Jesse Lewis

DPT, OCS, CSCS

Jesse Lewis, DPT, OCS, CSCS, is the founder of District Performance & Physio and a member of Internet for Growth.

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