While you can't expect a technology few understand to gain acceptance, you can work toward change. The IAB has plans to introduce a campaign or a public service announcement soon, but for now chooses to keep it under wraps. In July, the organization released the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising. Education was one of the principles:
"Entities engaged in Online Behavioral Advertising intend in a major campaign to describe the benefits of these practices, the means of exercising choice, and the effect of such choices. Towards this goal, entities have committed advertising that is expected to exceed 500,000,000 online advertising impressions that will be dedicated to educate consumers about Online Behavioral Advertising over the next 18 months."
Dan Neely, CEO of Networked Insights, calls "fear" the "backlash" of BT, especially when people discover companies follow them across the Web and in social networks to serve up ads without telling them first.
Last week at OMMA Global in New York a panel of experts gathered to talk about whether BT crosses the line. Part of the conversation turned toward education.
Panelist Neely said companies need to concentrate more on how BT affects consumers, rather than focus solely on the benefits for companies. A person's age can also influence attitude toward BT. For example, Networked Insights conducted a study that found 18-to-28-year-olds aren't concerned about BT. About half the consumers aged 26-to-36 who participated aren't familiar with BT, or don't mind being targeted, while the other half said "Hell, no, don't even think about trying it."
In preparation for the OMMA panel, Mike Dodge, general manager of Atomic Online, conducted a poll that revealed consumers either fear BT or lack the information needed to make intelligent decisions.
When consumers were asked if they mind receiving relevant ads through anonymous tracking of their past browser and search behavior, about 30% said, "Sure, serve me up ads that are meaningful," but just less than half said "No, I'm not comfortable." The remainder asked, "What are you talking about?"
One caveat: both surveys were done online, which means respondents tended to be more comfortable with online activities.
Aaron Shapiro, partner at Huge, believes "most consumers don't have any real comprehension that there's no privacy online, and those who do tend not to care."
And while the average person thinks it's freaky that someone looks at what they do across the Web, and then sends them advertisements related to the behavior, it really depends on the generation doing the Web surfing. There's a direct correlation between age and fear about BT. For example, a typical 20-year-old might have 700 Facebook friends, but someone from an older generation might think a Facebook "friend" is actually a friend.