Online privacy has become an issue that finally has bled outside of the realm of behavioral targeting and it is quite rightly taking its place in discussions of ad spending, publishing and targeting of all kinds. We have been weaving it ever more deeply into the coverage at MediaPost's own OnlineMediaDaily (courtesy of specialist Wendy Davis) and the programming of the OMMA shows themselves.
At last month's OMMA Behavioral, the Interactive Advertising's Bureau's point man on public policy, Mike Zaneis, walked us through the new effort to create standardized iconography and messaging around disclosure about data collection and tracking, opt-outs, etc. Zaneis says that the IAB and its partners in the cross-industry consortium working on the project will run over 1 billion ad impressions this year to get the word out.
While some may say that the campaign is too little too late, he argues that the regulatory and legislative groups he lobbies in Washington are appreciating the effort. According to the analytics on the ad campaign, 10% of the ads being delivered get moused over, which in many cases expands the ad to offer information about ad targeting. The next wave of the effort will involve standard icons and labels that will run with ads and on publisher Web sites. For the full presentation, you can access the video/audio of Zaneis' talk here.
While the industry initiative to implement and enforce self-regulation may be slower to market than many expected, it is dovetailing with rising concern that privacy matters to everyone's bottom line. Next week in San Francisco at OMMA Global, we are taking the privacy issue that usually sits in a track about ad nets or behavioral targeting, and instead moving it into the track for publishers. The panel on Wednesday -- "Can Publishers Take Ownership of Privacy?" -- will address the critical problem of how the privacy issue ultimately will have to be taken up by the place where consumers have a direct relationship, the publisher.
I think publishers are going to have to take a good deal of the ownership of privacy and be much more aware of the policies of the partners they use. For the last several weeks I have been using the latest iteration of the Ghostery plug-in for Firefox. This tool tracks the trackers. It shows the user which ad nets and other analytics programs are using unique identifiers with your browser.
What I find really interesting here is the new pop-up window that superimposes the identities of the trackers on every page on which you land. From Google Analytics to ad exchanges and data providers, the full list gets daunting quickly at some sites. Now a part of the experience of landing on any site is seeing very clearly from the outset which cookies and beacons are at play.The net effect of this process is fascinating, because it gives the user a peek at a publisher's business model and the aggressiveness of their data strategy.
Does such knowledge change my browsing habits? No, not yet. Does it change my relationship with the publisher? To a degree. I now have a stronger sense of how the publisher is leveraging and placing value on my presence. In an indirect way, greater transparency about user tracking reinforces the notion that consumer behaviors have a cash value in the media economy. In making the case that targeting is critical to the survival of online media, publishers and advertisers are also making the case with consumers that their attention has value and that the user herself may be able to barter some of this value more effectively. As a consumer, the publishers appears to own my privacy protection, because they are the ones most obviously profiting from my data.
I was speaking with a senior ad agency executive the other day about the trends in digital advertising this year. He was among the first on the buy side to make the strong case to me that spending and privacy are going to be linked. As agencies develop demand-side platforms that aggregate audiences and inventory on behalf of clients, then the now-familiar question "who owns the data" becomes more insistent among publishers, third-party data providers and ad networks.
"Privacy and who owns the data are opposite sides of the same coin," he told me. "Until we get to the solution of both those issues, it renders the value of online media as specious." In other words, until the advertisers (or even the publishers, for that matter) know what they can extract from the data they collect and how it can be used, then it is difficult to price advertising. "Resolving the privacy issue in turn informs who owns the data, which informs how online display media is priced," he argued.
Now privacy is inextricably entwined with the publisher's and advertiser's bottom line.