Op-Ed: Congress Shouldn’t Hurt Small Business by Destroying Digital Advertising

Today in Arizona, the state is home to more than a half million small businesses — including my own company, based in Glendale. Statewide, small businesses account for more than four out of 10 workers. Small businesses help rev up the state’s economy, we create jobs and we help make the Valley’s neighborhoods more vibrant. This is not easy work, but in running a small business, I have found autonomy, financial success and a positive way to give back to my community.

Even so, the past three years have been a lot to handle. Many small business owners risked everything to follow a dream, only to see that effort crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as that crisis began to lift, supply chain woes, spiking inflation and the national labor shortage all reared their heads simultaneously. Today, many small businesses are still hanging on for dear life, counting nickels and dimes to keep the doors open.

All these challenges would be enough to keep anyone sleepless a few nights a week, but now Congress is adding to the woes of small business owners by considering new regulation of the internet that could substantially harm every business that relies on digital marketing to reach customers and clients.

The so-called “American Data Privacy and Protection Act” — recently the subject of a hearing on Capitol Hill — was allegedly authored to protect consumers’ data. Unfortunately, the measure’s unintended consequences will likely include drastically curtailing small businesses’ ability to reach new and existing customers online, meanwhile driving up the cost of data-driven online marketing even as it becomes less effective. For a digital advertising agency like my business — and for dozens of our clients, from car dealers to Realtors to local shops who rely on digital ads to drive their bottom line — this legislation will only deepen the competitive disadvantage small businesses face compared to big businesses with their bigger ad budgets.

The internet has been a difference-maker for years for Arizona mom-and-pop shops, erasing geographical boundaries, opening new markets and lowering the cost of acquiring customers. During the pandemic, comparatively cheap digital ads created a lifeline for delivery businesses, storefront shops and local restaurants. These little operations have no way to afford big-dollar campaigns. Even so, they still need to get out the word about their offerings and services. After everything small business has survived the last few years — and with inflation still reducing many businesses’ profit margins — Congress should be focused on lowering costs for businesses and consumers, not raising them.

At a time when small businesses across Arizona continue to struggle, we simply can’t afford another crushing blow. Measures like ADPPA will drive up costs and make it more difficult to engage with the consumers we need to keep our businesses afloat. The Arizona Congressional delegation would be wise to reject this ruinous legislation — because more than a half-million business owners, a million employees and a state full of consumers are depending on you.

Drew Ament, the owner and managing partner of Press1toTalk, has been a digital advertising expert and small business owner for 20 years. He is part of Internet for Growth, an initiative of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which supports the transformative role the advertising-supported internet plays in empowering America’s small businesses, helping entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life.