Interest Based Advertising

The sophistication of online targeting inevitably breeds heated conversations about consumer privacy. In one of the closing agency sessions at the first day of ad:tech, Jim Nichols of Catalyst:SF briefly touched on this subject and talked about the implications of interest based advertising. Simply put, interest based advertising allows consumers to click on the icon you see above within an online display ad to see how exactly the ad was targeted to them. Based on a press release from the IAB, this self-regulated program will be widely rolled out throughout the next few months. The following quote from Nancy Hill, President of the 4A's (who also spoke during one of the agency break-out sessions today) provides additional context for how this program came to be.

“Consumers deserve transparency regarding the collection and use of their data for behavioral advertising purposes. I am gratified that a group of influential associations – representing a significant component of the Internet community – has responded to so many of the privacy concerns raised by my colleagues and myself,” said Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour, Federal Trade Commission (FTC). “These associations have invested substantial efforts to actually deliver a draft set of privacy principles, which have the potential to dramatically advance the cause of consumer privacy. I commend these organizations for taking this important first step. I am hopeful that successful implementation will follow. In the meantime, I encourage the entire privacy community to continue a dialogue that places the interests of consumers first.”

The concept and execution of providing more transparency in the form of interest based advertising efforts is a step in the right direction. The fact is, according to a stat that Jim provided during his presentation, two-thirds of consumers are concerned about their privacy online. Allowing consumers to see how an online ad was targeted to them does not alleviate privacy concerns, but it at least gives them an understanding of how their online behavior is being used by advertisers. To me, the question moving forward is what action consumers will be able to take if they feel as though the means in which the ad was served to them was an invasion of privacy. This will certainly continue to be a controversial topic in the online advertising world, but at least the issue is being addressed and plans have been formalized to make an effort to gain the trust of consumers online.