Media Buyers Fear Backlash To BT, Warn 'Watershed' Moment Is Coming

Adam KasperMedia buyers weighed in on the use of behavioral targeting in online advertising Thursday, suggesting that privacy was more than a minor concern for clients in connection with the practice.

Speaking at the OMMA Behavioral conference in New York, Adam Kasper, director of digital media at Media Contacts, warned that a "watershed moment" is coming for behavioral targeting when consumers gain greater awareness of the extent to which their online activity can be tracked and targeted, triggering a backlash.

"It's the elephant in the room, and there's going to be a point where consumers get it and there's going to be a big public outcry," said Kasper. For the most part, people don't read privacy terms and conditions when they're surfing the Web, so they're not typically focused on the issue.



But a major incident involving exposure of personal data online or similar event raising a red flag on privacy could change that overnight. "That's going to hit the agencies pretty hard, and it's something that we need to be prepared for," said Kasper. He indicated that tighter self-policing within the digital industry was a key to avoiding increased regulation as a result of greater public pressure.

Melissa Adams, executive media director at Organic, noted that clients are already asking more questions about behavioral targeting even as they are drawn to its promise of more effective Web campaigns. "Clients are more interested in the details of where data is coming from than in the past," she said.

Asked about whether that was a good sign, Adams said, "it's positive if we can educate clients about the anonymity of it all and how it's used to their benefit, but it's a big bridge to cross to get them to understand there are safeguards in place."

The panel more broadly agreed on the need for some type of third-party verification to vet the quality and sourcing of data supplied to agencies by outside technology vendors. That's especially true as digital agencies are bombarded with pitches from myriad data providers and BT firms that all make similar promises about what their platforms can deliver.

"Every vendor is going to make certain claims but what's needed is an outside third-party to verify the claims," said Michael Andrew, director of search and analytics at Mediasmith. One big question is how recent the audience data is that agencies are tapping into to for behaviorally guided campaigns. If a targeted consumer is no longer in the market for a car, for instance, the data no longer relevant. "I think the thing that scares us is that there's so much trust feeding into these different systems," said Adams.

But none of the agency executives had a good idea for what ad industry organization or other body could serve as an outside auditor for behavioral data. But Kasper said following the panel it would have to be an independent third party without their own ad network. "Someone with a market position similar to Nielsen or comScore," he said.

Despite the technical hurdles and regulatory issues surrounding behavioral targeting, Kasper and other panelists voiced enthusiasm for the technique, especially in trying to reach consumers early in the purchasing process. "I love the idea of using BT in targeting people at the top of the funnel, if for no other reason than to drive efficiencies," said Kasper. "It's a really big idea."

10 comments about "Media Buyers Fear Backlash To BT, Warn 'Watershed' Moment Is Coming".
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  1. Randall Rothenberg from Interactive Advertising Bureau, February 25, 2010 at 8:30 p.m.

    I and all IAB members are grateful to Mediapost for your ongoing coverage of the interactive advertising privacy regulation debate. It's especially gratifying to learn that media agencies are awakening to the situation; until now, with some notable exceptions, such as Group M, thee hasn't been enough hands-on agency involvement.

    But it's astonishing to learn that none of the agency executives on today's OMMA panel had any ideas about how to assure consumer privacy, or which third party independent body could oversee self-regulation. Haven't they been reading this or other trade publications - or The New York Times and Wall Street Journal? Haven't they gone to the IAB or 4A's Web sites?

    For more than two years, our two trade associations, together with the ANA and the DMA, have been engaged in an unprecedented cross-industry coalition to self-regulate our conjoined industries to assure consumer privacy rights and expectations are protected. The Council of Better Business Bureaus, the nation's oldest self-regulatory organization, is building the enforcement mechanism. IAN and ANA have helped finance it's construction. WPP and the Future of Privacy Forum have contributed critical pro bono support. The enforcement regime is rolling out right now: An industry standard icon denoting behavioral advertising was announced in January.

    I'm thankful that the agency executives on the OMMA panel are registering concern, but their lack of knowledge is troubling. Agencies do need to wake up. They need to educate themselves and their clients. They need to participate in the self-regulatory system our associations are building. And they should contribute their time and financing to assure it's success.

  2. Sara Brown, February 26, 2010 at 5:04 a.m.

    So interesting article I have view with the Media descriptive article which will be so important news for our knowledge, I will really thank full to you that I am he part of your this article….
    Sara Brown

  3. Jeff Einstein from The Brothers Einstein, February 26, 2010 at 8:33 a.m.

    Sara, meet Randall. He'll explain why your personal data is so safe...

  4. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, February 26, 2010 at 10:13 a.m.

    Wait just a second, R2: Aren't these OMMA folks whose lack of knowledge about BT you find so "troubling" the same guys you targeted in your "creepy" BT campaign?

    Maybe they didn't see any of the ads. After all, you only spent $400K and 600 million donated impressions to get the word out.

  5. Edward Montes from Havas Digital, February 26, 2010 at 11:08 a.m.

    I am disappointed that the IAB President would suggest that agencies (except for Group M apparently) have failed to be involved with the privacy and regulation debate. I can not speak specifically for all agencies but certainly understand the efforts that we have undertaken to encourage and participate in the debate. Among those efforts have been participation in the 4A's Data Task Force, being a founding partner of the Better Advertising Project (along with GroupM, Omnicom, Vivaki, and Cadreon), the retainer of Chappel & Associates as privacy counsel, along with the ongoing advocacy of the same self-regulating principals championed by the IAB and the 4A's.

    Its more perplexing that the very group whose core objectives are stated as, " Fend off adverse legislation and regulation, Coalesce around market-making measurement guidelines and creative standards,
    Create common ground with customers to reduce costly friction in the supply chain, Share best practices that foster industry-wide growth, Generate industry-wide research and thought leadership that solidifies Interactive as a mainstream medium, Create countervailing force to balance power of other media, marketing, and agency trade groups" would chose to criticize discussion rather than seize the opportunity to "create common ground with customers" or "share best practices".

    All parties should support discussion that raises awareness to what is potentially crippling legislation and, at best, an inelegant solution to consumer and marketers concerns around privacy. I applaud all who participated in the panel for speaking with candor about a complex topic and to OMMA for continuing to raise the bar on the issues.

    Interestingly, when I was recently quoted on this matter in another industry trade publication no one from the IAB commented or applauded that effort, maybe because it summarized the discussion as follows, "...It's why Montes, along with the IAB and its constituency, hopes "we don't create another reason not to market online.""

  6. Nelson Yuen from Stereotypical Mid Sized Services Corp., February 26, 2010 at 1:17 p.m.


    I'm just a blue collar mechanic looking at this conversation. I get it, but it's funny...

    Randall - just a thought?

    Maybe the reason why agencies aren't presenting solutions to "assuring consumer privacy" is because the government focuses too much on WHAT kinds of (PII) agencies collect, and not necessarily how agencies organize or distinguish the end user from the information we collect.

    I've always thought of PII as an economic problem. The majority of end users don't have the incentive to research or understand what is going on behind the scenes to deliver them more relevant ads. The opportunity cost of being concerned with PII outweighs the returns - consumers don't have a COLLECTIVE interest in protecting birthdates, browsing history, etc. It's just a personal preference. The information in context has little value to consumers. It's like voting for government officials; IDEALLY we vote on reps because we don't have an economically vested interest in EVERY issue pertaining to current politics.

    I could be totally off though and sound really stupid.

    LOL does anyone else find technology amazing? A lowly mechanic can address a comment made by Randall Rothenberg???

  7. John Grono from GAP Research, February 26, 2010 at 4:48 p.m.

    Privacy is to BT, what "that speck of ice on the horizon" was to the captain of the Titanic.

  8. Christopher Hart from New York Times Digital, February 26, 2010 at 8:40 p.m.

    This is a message to the users of the web who are not familiar with the practices of our industry, not a threat to the players. Reputable sites have very strict acceptability programs attached to direct sales and remnant is managed as well as the 3rd party gives a publisher. Advocacy campaigns, in particular, and all other creatives must clearly display the party to which the ad is associated to. If the user finds the message offensive, they know who to contact. Do not underestimate the stupidity of the web surfer. They know when they see banners for the same advertiser across sites.

    Some people may find that BT is offensive in that it may be intrusive, which is hard for the user to understand when there is so little of a population who is aware of the practices outside of our industry. The focus on the message should be that "Your privacy is our concern and the proper nets are in place if there should be a concern. It is also your choice to decide." The creative of the IAB Privacy Matters campaign clearly reflects this.

    IF there is no need to worry about current practice, then there should be no objection to merely setting up a layer of protection and give transparency and insight to the consumer. J-Walking still happens with the "Don't Walk" sign solid, but the street user feels more confident to walk when they see that there are no dangers in the distance. There may be more promise in embracing a program to educate the public than fight it.

  9. Christopher Hart from New York Times Digital, February 26, 2010 at 8:48 p.m.

    My apologies to the "users."

    "Do not underestimate the INTELLIGENCE of the web surfer."

    and do not assume they are stupid.

  10. Mike John-baptiste from Peerset, February 27, 2010 at noon

    Re: Third Party Verification of BT data - sure, I guess. And how long will that take? Three years, ten years? And I'm sure the companies with deeper pockets will figure out a way to "earn" their credentials faster than the little guys. Why do we have to institutionalize everything and stiffle growth and innovation. We're just giving large conversative companies another excuse resist change. Why don't we just share with each other? Here's a novel idea...not really...customers rate the data. Just as buyers/consumers do on eBay and TripAdvisor and Amazon and Yelp and..... Peers care what peers think and if a BT company consistently puts crappy data out there, hopefully the word will get around. Some brave sole out there should start a website that is an information sharing site about marketing data - the good, the bad, the ugly.

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