Behavioral Targeting Update, Battlefield Media

Back in the middle of the summer I highlighted one of the rounds in the fight over behavioral targeting, specifically the well-organized effort by a consortium of companies to impose enough self-regulation on the more invasive form of network behavioral targeting. The seven best practices the group released were led off by The Education Principal, a noble ideal intended to accomplish two goals. The first goal is to soften concern from the Federal Trade Commission about purposeful consumer confusion in the effort to leverage collected data to power advertising. The argument to the FTC is, the more informed consumers are about who is collecting data on them and how, the more willing they are to participate. The Education Principal is about demonstrating value.

The second, more obvious desired outcome of The Education Principal is to actually educate consumers on the various positive attributes of network behavioral targeting. You may have noticed that the Interactive Advertising Bureau launched a campaign earlier this month aimed at beginning a wholesale education process. The FTC has criticized some privacy pages regarding behavioral targeting are dense and unclear.

So, the IAB has taken to the media, by virtue of the big online display campaign, to argue what it believes are the positive merits of network behavioral targeting. The idea is to give consumers better access to how and why information is collected and used.

In case you are questioning the importance of this issue to online advertisers, note that WPP agency Schematic has designed and launched the campaign pro bono, thanks to heavy online advertisers like Microsoft, Google, and AOL all contributing the money muscle.

A little farther up the road on Capitol Hill, Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher has stated plans to introduce a bill designed to notify those browsing the Web when their information is being captured or used to serve up advertising content. Boucher’s bill would also include the possibility of requiring permission from a consumer, in certain circumstances.

The Boucher bill seems to be designed to appease the collective of consumer privacy advocates on one side of the aisle that are pushing for more stringent guidelines, but not completely give into the overhaul of online advertising and network behavioral targeting that wholesale changes would introduce.

The takeaway from what is now the “media round” of the behavioral targeting debate is that it is still the network version – not onsite targeting – that is drawing criticism. It is important for marketers and lawmakers to understand the distinction and continue to implement and use the more accepted behavioral targeting – onsite.

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