Trade Groups Craft Web Ad Guidelines


NEW YORK Internet advertising could look and feel a whole lot different in 2010.

Looking to get out in front of potential regulation from the U.S. Government, a consortium of marketing and media trade organizations has unveiled a set of self-regulatory principles for behavioral targeting. Among other things, the rules call for nearly every Internet ad that uses consumer data to clearly identify that it does so -- either via a universal logo or associated Web link.

The principles are being jointly issued by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers, the Direct Marketing Association, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. These are the same groups that vowed to work together on these issues last January. The groups have laid out seven principles that would theoretically take effect by early 2010.

The set of influential trade organizations -- which are also being joined by various ad networks (including the Network Advertising Initiative) and Internet service providers -- have been working in concert since last year in response to a similar set of principles issued by the Federal Trade Commission in late 2007, which urged the industry to regulate itself. Since that time, the urgency to get out front of this issue has increased since a new administration took office in amid a highly pro-regulatory environment.

The groups have not been timid in their approach to self-regulation. For example, the aforementioned Transparency Principle “requires the deployment of multiple mechanisms for clearly disclosing and informing consumers about data collection and use practices associated with online behavioral advertising,” per the groups’ jointly issued report. “Compliance with this principle will result in new links and disclosures on the Web page or advertisement where online behavioral advertising occurs.”

In other words, next year consumers will likely see some sort of behavioral targeting disclosure notice or link alongside Web-based ads. Plus, the group’s “Education Principle” calls for a massive promotional campaign to educate consumers about behavioral targeting, with IAB publishers committing at least 500 million free ad impressions over an 18-month period. A Web site will be established to serve as a consumer information hub on behavioral ads.

If this initiative goes as planned, Web consumers will be given numerous opportunities to opt out of behavioral targeting -- as a result of the group’s “Consumer Control Principle.” Both Web sites and third-party data collectors will be required to provide easy ways for users to choose not to have their data collected.

Other principles cover issues such as data security, accountability and principle enforcement -- which will likely be handled by the BBB.

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