So Much For The Con, Now Let's Hear About Some Pros
Last week, Online Publishing Insider columnist David Koretz asserted online "publishers are committing fraud" (Online Publishing Insider, January 21), but it's Mr. Koretz who is conning MediaPost readers. As chairman of an online advertising company, he either knows and is hiding the fact that the advertising, marketing, and media industries are driving the largest and most comprehensive self-regulatory program in interactive-sector history -- or he doesn't know and is making uninformed accusations about his competitors in the interactive advertising and media industries.
Here are some of the facts:
- In July of 2009, a coalition led by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB) and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) -- which together represent more than 5,000 U.S. companies -- announced the consensus passage of broad cross-industry Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising, and the development of an independent enforcement mechanism to be led by the BBB and its National Advertising Review Council self-regulatory arm. These principles embrace and expand on the concerns raised by consumer groups and by the Federal Trade Commission. The principles were praised publicly by FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, who said: "These guidelines are a direct response to the call by the FTC and consumer groups for improved practices, including increased transparency and consumer control over the collection and use of data. I commend the coalition's efforts to bring together many diverse industry players to address privacy." FTC Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour similarly praised the industry's work and strong commitment to self-regulation, and said, "I am gratified that a group of influential associations -- representing a significant component of the Internet community -- has responded to so many of the privacy concerns raised by my colleagues and myself. These associations have invested substantial efforts to actually deliver a draft set of privacy principles, which have the potential to dramatically advance the cause of consumer privacy."
- Since the release of the self-regulatory principles, the associations involved with the effort have committed $600,000 to NARC to launch the self-regulatory mechanism. Work on its construction has begun; as was reported last week, an RFP was issued by the BBB to technology service providers to help build the infrastructure. NARC is best-known for its widely praised track record in monitoring and enforcing standards in children's advertising, through its Children's Advertising Review Unit.
- Publishers have further stepped up to the plate by launching, through the IAB, the industry's first-ever advertising and service campaign devoted to protecting consumer privacy. With creative and media planning donated by WPP's Group M and Schematic, and with a half-billion impressions (and counting) donated by 25 publishers, the "Privacy Matters" effort was called "helpful" by the head of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, David Vladeck. We expect at least 1 billion donated impressions to be donated for the campaign this year.
Instead of sitting on our "collective asses," as Mr. Koretz ignorantly charges, IAB publisher members and staff also have testified before the House of Representatives and the FTC; brought more than 30 member companies to visit more than 50 Congressional offices; released a comprehensive study by Harvard Business School Professors John Deighton and John Quelch on the economic value of the interactive advertising ecosystem; hosted Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher (the author of a forthcoming "Internet privacy" bill) for a candid give-and-take at an IAB Board meeting; and written many Op-Ed pieces, blog postings and letters showcasing the value and opportunities inherent in (and historically associated with) advertising self-regulation.
We also have lobbied Congress and the FTC repeatedly and aggressively on a subject Mr. Koretz pointedly ignores: the proposals circulating in the House, the FTC, and in state capitals like Albany would destroy much of the interactive advertising industry. Why? Because these proposals label virtually ALL data exchanges that take place in interactive media -- no matter how benign -- as "behavioral," and place them all under a strict regulatory regime. Third-party ad-serving, most display advertising delivery, zip-code-level targeting, page-caching and delivery, and many of the other consumer- and business-friendly aspects of interactive advertising and media would be restricted under these proposals -- without protecting consumer "privacy" in the least.
I'll assume Mr. Koretz is not intentionally hiding all this from his readers, and honestly doesn't know all this is going on. So I'll conclude with a recommendation: Rather than writing inflammatory and badly reported Op-Ed pieces, he and his companies should join IAB, where we are working with some 400 companies he wrongly accuses of doing nothing -- and through our sister associations, with thousands of other marketing, agency, retailing, and media companies -- to create strong, meaningful self-regulation for our industry, and avoid the deleterious regulation he rightly decries. In fact, if Mr. Koretz is so worried about the industry's relationship with consumers, we urge him to follow the lead of his industry peers and put his money where his mouth is by donating ad inventory and funding to the IAB Consumer Protection & Education Campaign, where he'd be joining such IAB members as 24/7 Real Media, CBS, Burst Media, Hulu, Google, Meredith, Microsoft, NBC Universal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Yahoo, and dozens more in protecting our consumers and our industry.