Satisfying Privacy Advocates
Open Adstream Central (OAC), a new ad serving technology from Real Media, a New York firm, hopes to satisfy privacy advocates, because it doesn't share cookie data with other advertisers. But it will also satisfy the companies that use it, because it puts them in control of the data that is ordinarily available to other advertisers.
Most third party ad serving companies control the cookie data they gather and can repeatedly sell it to other advertisers. But Real Media gives its publishing clients control of the data so the users they target won't be sold to other advertisers.
"The one small difference between the publishers and us owning cookie data is massive," says Larry Allen, Real Media's VP of central operations. "It disenables Real Media from tracking users across the site in aggregate."
This feature of OAC will satisfy privacy advocates who are concerned with user names being indiscriminately sold to advertisers without their permission by third party ad servers.
"Website publishers need to understand what the privacy issue means to their business," Allen says. "Opt-out language is almost certain to pass in Congress this year. If it does and a site's third party ad server is profiling their users, a pop-up window will appear at the point of contact, unless they're working with OAC."
Giving publishers control of cookie data doesn't just protect users' privacy. It also gives more value to the publisher's user base. "Publishers want to protect their media assets. They want to protect their users so other publishers can't reach them. With OAC, advertisers or third parties can't steal the users and sell them at a discount to other sites. And publishers can say to advertisers you can get the users on my site but not anywhere else."
Rudy Grahn, a Jupiter Media Metrix analyst, says OAC isn't the only "cookieless" ad serving technology. DoubleClick, Avenue A and Mediaplex are among the other third party servers that offer it. "But if they specialize in it, it could work," Grahn says.
He notes that financial service and other industries with special privacy concerns will be the prime users. Major retailers who don't want to share their customer data with anyone else will also seek it out, Grahn says.
Real Media says that Smarter Living, New City Media and Kalmbach Publishing are among the first OAC customers.
- Ken Liebeskind may be reached at email@example.com