Published December 2017

In a recent article for Ad Age, Shelly Palmer posited that, despite the recent public uproar, the end of net neutrality might actually be a positive shift for marketers. With “hundreds of different rate plans targeted at specific cohorts,” the end of net neutrality could be “a perfect opportunity to pair programmatic creative with programmatic media buying.” However, this argument oversimplifies marketing and ignores a large—and rapidly growing—population of consumers.

How the end of net neutrality could change the internet for all of us.

Looking to the Future

Millennials, the largest generation in U.S. history, have grown up with the internet. Tech-savvy and connected (over 85% own smartphones), millennials are reshaping the market landscape.1 In fact, by 2018, they’ll have more spending power than any other generation—an estimated $3.39 trillion.1

So while targeted advertising might be easier without an open internet, doesn’t it make sense to consider what works for the largest consumer base with the most buying power? The end of net neutrality could mean the end of marketing approaches that resonate most with millennials, like influencer power, user-generated content, and authenticity.

Content Is Community

Marketing surprise: Millennials don’t respond to the hard sell. They want opinions and reviews from friends, family members, and strangers. When making purchasing decisions, 84% of millennials head to the internet to reference user-generated content.2 They look to influencers for product reviews and ratings. To market to a millennial is to get involved across a number of platforms and engage with real people.

Net neutrality makes this type of marketing possible—and powerful. But soon, carriers like Verizon and AT&T could start charging for access to the apps marketers and influencers rely on most. For example, say Verizon starts charging high prices to access Instagram; this would obviously be a barrier to some of the 71% of businesses that currently use the app for marketing purposes.3 ISPs like Comcast could change offerings to give the fastest speeds to corporations with the deepest pockets, leaving individuals and small businesses—like marketing and design agencies, tech startups, and your friend’s brewery—to battle for exposure at dial-up speeds (something that’s often fatal for businesses).4

For the Greater Good

The next generation of consumers is more likely to buy from brands that are authentic, transparent, and community-oriented. A whopping 75% of millennials think companies should “give back to society.”1 Meanwhile, the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality is expected to hinder user accessibility, make it harder to find unbiased information, harm small and medium-sized businesses, and benefit giant corporations. The repeal has the power to exacerbate the disdain that many young consumers already feel for targeted advertising—exactly the opposite effect that advertisers want.

Ending net neutrality is bad for everyone—including all the Scrooge McDucks and giant corporations it’s supposed to benefit—because it stifles innovation in numerous industries, including marketing and advertising. The FCC’s repeal is bad for everyone and it’s bad for marketers.

Saving the Open Internet

But the fight isn’t over. In 17 states and the District of Columbia, plans are underway to sue the FCC for going ahead with their vote to repeal net neutrality protections despite massive fraud during their public-comment period. Other organizations, including Free Press and the National Hispanic Media Coalition, have also promised to challenge the repeal. And they have pretty solid cases.

But lawsuits can’t protect access in the short term. To save open internet now, we need Congress to overturn the FCC’s vote by passing a “resolution of disapproval” under the Congressional Review Act within 60 days. The resolution will require only a simple majority vote to invalidate the repeal and prohibit the FCC from issuing similar rules.

Join the Fight: What You Can Do Now

The resolution is on its way to Congress—now, we need to get our reps on board.2 First, find out where your senators and representatives stand.

Then get on the phone. Ask your team to call, too. 5 Calls has contact info and scripts ready to go for each of your congresspeople. Try to make the message your own by mentioning what losing net neutrality could mean for you and your business.

Consider displaying an alert on your website urging visitors to take action (they’ll only see it once a day; here are the instructions). Tweeting, emailing, and writing letters are all great ways to raise awareness—but a phone call is the hardest for your senators and representatives to ignore.

Even Ajit Pai agrees: "The internet is the greatest free market innovation in history."1 But Congress must act to guarantee a level playing field and sustain innovation when our country needs it most. Activism works, and the vote is close. Team Internet can win. Get involved at

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  1. Antonow, Zofia. “41 Revealing Statistics About Millennials Every Marketer Should Know.” Agency Ascend, June 2017.
  2. “Talking to Strangers: Millennials Trust People over Brands.” Bazaarvoice, January 2012.
  3. “Number of Companies Using Instagram to Nearly Double Next Year.” eMarketer, October 2015.
  4. Glaser, April. “Net Neutrality Is Over. Now What?” Slate, December 2017.