Web Ad Spending Rose to $6 Bil. in Q4

NEW YORK The online advertising business enjoyed another record quarter as 2007 came to a close, as spending approached $6 billion during the fourth quarter of last year, according to the latest joint report issued by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The $5.9 billion quarter represented a 24 percent increase versus the fourth quarter of 2006, a tick below the 25 percent surge in spending the industry enjoyed in 2007 as a whole, which saw dollars reach $21.1 billion, according to the report. In fact, each of the four quarters in 2007 set records versus the previous year for an industry that appears yet to have peaked.

“Interactive media continue their unabated growth,” said IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg.

Meanwhile, as the IAB convenes in Phoenix for its annual meeting, the organization released a new set of guidelines aimed at addressing consumer privacy on the Web and specifically the collection of personal data as behavioral ad targeting becomes more and more prominent. The guidelines preach transparency and choice, urging publishers to be as upfront as possible about what sort of data they collect on Web users and to offer those users more control over how their personal information gets used.

“Research shows consumers value free Internet services highly and prefer advertising that is relevant to their interests, but want guarantees that their personally identifiable information won’t be misused,” said Rothenberg.

While the guidelines are not designed to be hard-and-fast industry bylaws, but rather a starting point for the industry to address consumer privacy, it’s clear that the online ad industry is seeking to stave off more involvement from the U.S government. Rothenberg emphasized that the the IAB is looking to be more flexible than the Federal Trade Commission on these issues. “We believe the FTC is too rigid on the matters of notice and choice,” he said. “Our principles strike the appropriate balance between protecting consumers’ security and allowing industry to provide the free services and content they desire.”