January 13th, 2009

Trade Groups to Craft Behavioral Targeting Guidelines

By Mike Shields

Four of the advertising industry’s biggest trade organizations, along with the the Council of Better Business Bureaus, plan to jointly develop a set of self-regulatory guidelines for behavioral targeting ads.

Joining in the cause are the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

The groups said their goal is to tackle privacy concerns surrounding behavioral targeting, a widespread practice which involves studying Web users’ previous surfing and searching activity to deliver them more relevant ad messages. In addition, the new consortium hopes to better educate consumers—some of whom are only gradually becoming aware of the controversial practice.

As part of this self-regulatory effort, the groups said they plan to further consider a set of behavioral targeting principles set forth by the Federal Trade Commission in December 2007.

Given the timing, it’s likely that the ad organizations are looking to get out in front of these issues before President-elect Obama and the new Democratic-controlled Congress and Senate get to weigh in.

Several top officials in the online ad industry, including IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg, have expressed concern that a Democrat-dominated Washington will come down hard and indiscriminately on regulating online advertising. 

Thus, officials said the new group would reach out to key lawmakers, as well as the FTC.

Currently, no time line has been set for meetings or the publication of guidelines. But the plan will be to sell consumer-data-driven online advertising as crucial for driving the online publishing industry.

“We want to be certain that we demonstrate the value exchange to the public that comes from online advertising,” said Rothenberg.


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