Seven Behavioral Ad Companies Called Out

All agree to make compliance changes

Seven companies from the online data targeting world were urged to modify the way they inform consumers and enable them to opt-out of behavioral ads in order to conform to best practices outlined by the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council.

As a result, BlueCava, Turn, DataXu, Oxamedia, Gravity and Rovion have all taken action to address concerns raised by the council based on multiple investigations—concerns related to consumer disclosures, opting out across devices, and the effectiveness and duration of opt-out mechanisms. 

That's despite Gravity and Rovion's contention that neither company actually participates in behavioral targeting. Oxamedia was unaware of the ASRC principles, but still agreed to make changes to become compliant, said officials. 

A seventh company that also claimed it does not engage in online behavioral advertising, Facilitate Digital Holdings, agreed to change its opt-out cookie’s duration to the industry standard of five years, but has not yet done so, according to the ASRC.

Genie Barton, director of the ASRC’s program, said that in addition to the significant threat of enforcement actions by the Federal Trade Commission, there are three compelling reasons that help keep companies engaged in behaviorally targeted advertising will want to fall in line with the Digital Accounting Alliance's self-regulatory principles, which the ASRC enforces.

One is that membership in organizations like the Digital Marketing Association and the Interactive Advertising Bureau could be revoked. "Another is that this is such an issue of concern that I think companies are sensitive to how consumer advocates, the media, feel about this issue. There's a lot of pressure on these companies to show they're good actors," Barton said. "Finally, there's just the peer pressure. There's over 100 ad networks… doing what they're supposed to do." 

Barton said that while the ASRC "never speaks about any ongoing inquiry," there are other investigations currently taking place. 

The ASRC is a unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (Barton is vp of that council), and sets policies and guidelines and monitors compliance for a number of ad industry self-regulation programs governing the truth and accuracy of advertising claims, children's advertising, and online behavioral advertising. Formerly known as the National Advertising Review Council, the body changed its name in April.