Out of all the positive, pro-business moves that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed over the past few years, he could undo much of his good work with a legislative hurricane that will blow away Florida’s small businesses, economy and consumer choice.
This threat comes in the form of, SB 262, a proposal quietly being rammed through Florida’s legislature that undermines the lifeblood of Florida businesses: digital advertising – a tool every Florida business relies on to reach customers and make sales. Despite being branded as a bill to protect consumers, it would do nothing of the sort and actually will end up harming Florida’s small businesses.
There are 5 main ways SB 262 would hurt small businesses:
- SB 262’s regulations on advertising mean small businesses in Florida will pay more money to reach customers.
Consider traditional advertising like the billboards you see on the side of the road, or the commercials you see on cable news. These ads are generic, impersonal and created for a wide audience—at a high price. Typically, small businesses struggled to buy a big enough spot for TV or buy space on a billboard. Think about it: during the 2023 Super Bowl, companies paid a record-high average of $7 million for a 30-second slot.
But when advertising online became more prominent, small businesses were able to target a smaller audience that was more likely to buy their products, expanding their access to consumers, personalizing the advertising experience and bringing costs for ads to historic lows. SB 262’s rules would undo that progress and force businesses to follow a more traditional model of advertising, destroying their competitive edge.
Overregulating personalized advertising will lower the quality of digital advertising in Florida, meaning consumers are more likely to see ads for products that aren’t relevant to them. Florida’s businesses will quite literally pay the price to reach the audiences they need.
- The bill’s unclear “privacy standards” will obstruct small businesses’ growth.
Just like with traditional arguments about regulation, imposing unclear, complex rules will stymie small businesses’ ability to grow. SB 262 outlines vague, broad rules that will make it difficult for Floridians and small businesses to easily understand and navigate. This means that small businesses must spend precious resources hiring compliance attorneys rather than workers. This means that small businesses must also raise prices to cover their newly imposed regulatory costs.
At the same time, the legislation seeks to exempt certain “preferred” businesses. This means that while thousands of small businesses are suffering, their competitors are collecting and using consumer data with impunity. This sets a “standard” of privacy for some, but not all.
- It harms Florida lawmakers’ ability to reach their constituents while undermining political advertising and advocacy.
Many of Florida’s lawmakers, including Gov. DeSantis, have a robust digital presence. And many of those same lawmakers have built such a presence by using targeted digital advertising.
But with increasing costs and decreasing targeting capabilities, many lawmakers will struggle to reach their audience online. This will undermine their ability to campaign effectively against opponents and require them to fundraise even more to be able to engage in advertising.
- It benefits foreign competitors at the expense of American tech businesses.
Under complex and burdensome regulations for U.S. companies, Florida will open the door to foreign competitors filling the gap. By targeting a small number of American businesses yet exempting competitors in China, SB 262 unfairly disadvantages home-grown American tech to the benefit of foreign tech companies looking to gain more influence in Florida—and the U.S. This concern has been voiced by many national security experts during debates about similar proposals in Congress.
- Florida’s online publishers will suffer from decreased advertising revenue, as digital advertising becomes more expensive and less sophisticated.
As advertising in the state will be forced to consolidate, many businesses will be unable to afford it, and publishers will likely see a decrease in revenue from SB 262’s passage. This will have the adverse effect of worsening the concern that smaller, local publishers are struggling to survive online.
If enacted, Florida’s SB 262 would harm small businesses and nonprofits in the state by forcing them to advertise their products and services online at a much higher cost. This will undermine a robust and thriving business climate that Gov. DeSantis and the legislature have worked so hard to create in the Sunshine State. Florida’s businesses deserve better.