As part of an industry-wide campaign to discourage new privacy laws, online ad agencies are planning to debut the new behavioral targeting icons in approximately four weeks.
Cadreon, a buying platform of Interpublic Group's Mediabrands, will participate in the first phase of the rollout with a campaign for Microsoft. WPP's MediaCom, MEC and Mediaedge will deploy the icons in three ad campaigns; Omnicom also is expected to participate in the initiative.
The startup Better Advertising, which has submitted a bid to the National Advertising Review Council to monitor compliance with privacy principles, will power the initiative. The icon -- an 'i' in a circle -- will appear as an overlay in the ads. Better Advertising also is working on designing a landing page that will include information about targeting and instructions for opting out.
"It's our view that if we can standardize the experience behind the icon for as many providers as possible, that will create a more consistent user experience, which will create more trust in the self-regulatory program," says Better Advertising CEO and founder Scott Meyer.
The icons are a key component of Madison Avenue's attempts to convince lawmakers that no new regulations are needed to protect consumers' privacy. The Federal Trade Commission said last year that it supports industry self-regulation for now, but that companies need to improve their efforts to inform consumers about online tracking and how to opt out.
Currently, many companies use privacy policies to notify people about tracking and behavioral targeting, but those policies often are seen as too lengthy and dense to effectively communicate.
Last year, the industry-backed think tank Future of Privacy Forum tapped WPP's Ogilvy to create a logo aimed at instantly alerting people that data about them was used to serve them particular ads.
The icon itself will probably appear in the upper-right hand corner of the ads -- where it's least likely to interfere with a link in the ad or other call to action -- but that detail remains subject to change, says John Montgomery, COO of WPP's GroupM Interaction.
He says he doesn't expect that adding the icon and accompanying text -- which will read "Why did I get this ad," "Interest Based Ad," or "Ad Choice -- will disturb the ads' design. "The icon and the writing are very small," he says, adding that eventually "people will start designing creative around the icon, so it doesn't disturb the message."
At Cadreon, the initiative is part of a new project dubbed "Audience Movement" that will attempt to verify that recipients of targeted ads have been provided with notice about behavioral advertising. The project also aims to confirm that people who are targeted are in the market for particular goods and services.
Mediabrands also plans to recommend that parent company IPG hire a chief privacy officer. Some IPG divisions currently employ privacy personnel -- for instance, in foreign jurisdictions that require agencies to have privacy officers -- but no single company-wide privacy czar.
Last year, WPP became the first major Madison Avenue player to name a privacy guru when Kantar Group tapped George Pappachen to serve in the newly created role of chief privacy officer. Omnicom Media Group also advertised for a privacy officer last year.