Who is Responsible for Online Rule Making?

Well of course, we are. Every one of us who buys, sells, or otherwise works on the Web makes these rules every day.

This topic is along the lines of a panel I moderated last week at the IAB/MediaPost Internet Advertising World conference in New York. I was surprised by how many people - and what stations these people held - approached me prior to the panel to make sure I was going to "take these jerks to task" or some such. Seriously, senior people in our industry wanted me to quip my own panelists in front of a paying audience, like some sort of interactive Simon Cowell.

But, each of the panelists had clear responses to the panel's key question: What responsibility do we have to make our marketing safe for the people who use the Web - especially children?

Transparency fast became a theme of this panel. In fact, transparency and disclosure were terms that were used numerous times in its 45 minutes. We opened the floor to questions after only 25 minutes, and there were just a few, with none of the previous venomous contention.



It's funny how that works. People bark all the time and want someone else to do the heavy lifting. But, the fact is that we're the ones doing the buying and selling online, and if no rule makers arrive, then we're either going to continue living on the frontier, as it were, or we're all going to panic every time another kind of "pop-up stopper" or some such arrives on the scene.

There was a bit of a scare along these lines just this week, when Microsoft announced another patch to IE6, which seemed to block a whole range of third-party cookies in the privacy setting's default mode.

As in any frontier movie, the biggest cowboys usually get used to getting their way, with some comeuppance by the end of the picture. This is why so many of the applications that people seem to complain about, especially pop-ups, persist.

If you have major brands buying pop-ups on major online networks despite the number of pop-up stoppers that are installed, and those major brands like the results they're getting, there is very little to stop them. And maybe there shouldn't be. After all, we can all install a simple pop-up stopper, right?

Thus having satisfied one of the deeper questions plaguing our industry, I whisked my friend Shawn Riegsecker from the Tribal Fusion party atop the Gramercy Hotel, and made for the airport, where a long ago planned trip to Ireland awaited us. Once we landed in Shannon, after a winding, rainy trip across the island, featuring golf at the lovely Glasson Golf Club that we'd planned online ('natch), Shawn and I settled in for a few sleep-deprived pints upon arriving in Dublin.

Now here's a guy who does more buying and selling online than most. I've mentioned him in this column before, mostly because of the kind of premium advertiser and property he represents - and also because he's absolutely spotless as pertains to the sorts of business practices online that people complain about.

If it were anyone else, I'd say it was the Guinness talking. But, Shawn's something of a lightweight, and he's given me this speech before.

"It's Kant's categorical imperative see," he said, with an eyebrow raised so as to warn me that metaphysics were coming. "We should all act only according to that maxim by which we can at the same time hope that it should become the law." In other words, we should practice the golden rule, and act like we want to be honest with our friends and colleagues (not just our results-driven clients) about our actions.

So, maybe some of the good guys are already winning. I sure hope so. I think that anyone who watched this panel last week would agree that the trend is favorable, not otherwise. The individuals and companies that need to be "taken to task" have names most of us have never heard of before. But, as was reported even in The New York Times last Sunday, some of these are being exposed; it's good news.

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