Results tagged “FTC” from IABlog

We start the New Year by addressing a question that’s on many people’s minds in the digital industry… 

Will the FTC provide guidance on native advertising in 2015
and, if so, what might we expect?


At December’s IAB Native Advertising Disclosure Workshop, which was attended by Laura Sullivan, Senior Staff Attorney, Division of Advertising Practices at the Federal Trade Commission, along with nearly 200 IAB event registrants, there was some speculation that the FTC had plans to provide guidance for native advertising. 

I sat down with Mike Zaneis, Executive Vice President, Public Policy & General Counsel from the IAB’s Washington, DC, office to get some perspective on what FTC guidance for native advertising might entail. 

When the FTC provides “guidance” on a specific advertising topic, what does that mean? Why do they do this?
Companies may be familiar with legal regulations that have been promulgated by the FTC, such as those issued last year under the COPPA statute. These regulations have the force of law and must be followed by companies. The FTC also brings enforcement cases against “unfair or deceptive” business practices.  Because this authority is extremely broad, the FTC sometimes helps companies understand what may be expected of them by issuing formal guidance. These documents provide examples of good or bad business practices and may provide direction in new or emerging marketplaces. 

Although it is speculative at this point in time, what might we expect from guidance on native advertising disclosure?
In the past, the FTC has issued broad-based guidance as well as guidance for specific business models. In the native advertising space they have only delved into the search advertising space, issuing guidance in 2002 and then providing an update in June of 2014. It is hard to predict what type of guidance they may issue in the future, but the focus on multiple business models during their 2013 native advertising townhall is a clear indication of the scope of their interest.  

The IAB, via its Native Advertising Task Force, issued the Recommended Native Advertising Disclosure Principles below as part of its Native Advertising Playbook (published 12/13). How similar or different might the FTC’s guidance look?

The IAB disclosure principles are a good example of the broad-based guidance that I described above. At their core they simply attempt to apply the existing law around advertising disclosures to the emerging field of native advertising.  In this case we might expect similarly broad language from the FTC, accompanied by specific examples in several native advertising categories such as In-Feed and Recommendation Widgets as outlined in the IAB Native Advertising Playbook. This was how they developed their “.com Disclosures” guidelines in the past.

Jan6Blog3.png Disclosure document. Source: FTC

Do you have any suggestions on what, if anything, publishers/marketers/agencies could or should do in anticipation of potential guidance being issued for native advertising?
As an industry we should strive to be proactive versus reactive in this area. At the IAB’s recent native advertising townhall event we heard from more than a dozen companies about how they are evolving their disclosure practices. These developments ensure that consumers understand where the content on the page ends and the advertisement begins. Many of us long assumed that disclosure and consumer engagement were countervailing forces, but we are discovering that, to the contrary, an informed consumer is a happy, engaged consumer.

How does the FTC announce that they are providing formal guidance?
There is no set process for issuing guides. In the ideal scenario they will publish a draft and solicit public comment before finalizing the document. However, they have sometimes simply issued new guides without a comment period or, in the case of search advertising, just sent letters to a number of companies to provide details on the updated guide.

If guidance is issued, how should publishers/marketers/agencies respond?
While they do not carry the same legal weight as a regulation, guides provide insight into the types of areas where the FTC may bring future enforcement actions. Therefore, companies should pay close attention to the “advice” provided in these documents and double check their current business practices against them. Guidelines are usually just that, guidelines, and they should provide room for variation, responsible experimentation, and future innovation.

For those who had questions about potential FTC Native Advertising Disclosure Guidance, we hope these answers were helpful. The IAB will continue to advocate that disclosure is of paramount importance for this growing source of digital advertising revenue. We will continue to provide updates on potential FTC guidance as/if available.

About the Author


Susan Borst

Susan Borst is the Director, Industry Initiatives and IAB liaison for the Content Marketing and Native Advertising Task Force groups, along with the Social Media, B2B and Game Advertising Committees at the IAB. She can be reached on Twitter @susanborst 


Don't Let the FTC Steal Christmas

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The Federal Trade Commission is undertaking a revision of their rules enforcing COPPA, the Federal law that protects families from the unwanted collection of personally identifiable information about their children. The interactive advertising industry supports COPPA and recognizes that a lot has changed in the 14 years since its passage, including the rise of the internet and, more recently, the growth of the mobile marketplace — but we must embrace innovation and the benefits they have brought to families. Recent proposals made by the FTC would conflate benign data transfers, which present no discernible threat to children’s online safety, with very real concerns about the unauthorized collection of information that might allow strangers to contact our children.

IAB hopes that the FTC will not undermine legitimate commercial practices that have revolutionized the way kids learn and play in the digital age. This holiday season let’s celebrate innovation and technology instead of playing scrooge to American families.


About the Author


Mike Zaneis

Mike Zaneis is SVP & General Counsel at the IAB.

blog-header-public-policy.gif cookies.jpg

The Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission has finally come clean. After all the pushing and pulling about consumer privacy, he has spilled the beans on what really irks him about the Internet: He doesn’t like cookies. Recently, on C-SPAN’s The Communicators, FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz, in dismissing our argument that the Commission’s push for browser controls over data would involve the “re-architecting” of the World Wide Web, described the IAB as a “lobbying organization for companies that like to put third-party cookies in consumers’ computers, so they’re doing what they do.”

Then last week, Chairman Leibowitz indicated he had inside knowledge about the inner workings of the interactive industry. “There is a schism brewing within the Internet advertising community and perhaps even within the IAB” on the subject of third parties, he told The Huffington Post.

Actually, the FTC Chair doesn’t know the half of it. The IAB is indeed a lobbying organization—not just for companies that place third party cookies on peoples’ computers, but for every major first-party publisher on the Internet as well—from the A&E Television Network to, with several hundred in-between. And I assure you, there is no schism within the IAB when it comes to cookies and their crucial role in the architecture of the Internet. Just to make sure, we asked them. Here is what a cross-section of IAB members told us cookies allow them to do for their advertisers and their consumers:

“First and foremost, cookies allow Univision dot com to capture and analyze information on our users interests thus guiding our content creation and web site navigation so our users find the information and content they seek and enjoy.”

      - Jim L’Heureux,

“AOL uses cookies to remember things for our users, such as location for weather information; with advertising, we’ll use cookies to limit the amount of times the same ad is shown to a person.”

      - Chuck Gafvert, AOL

“Third-party cookies allow me to employ four people and I’m hiring 10 more. How many businesses are you aware of in this economy doing that? They also allow me to deliver highly targeted solutions, in the form of quality products and service providers, to the 55,000 consumers that visit my site each day.”

      - Tim Carter,

“Cookies allow us to ensure that consumers receive relevant and customized ads without the use of personally identifiable information.”

      - Chris Pirrone, Traffic Marketplace Display

“If it were not for cookies, our registered users would have to enter their log-in and password every time they come to our websites and try to access valued content. Imagine having to do so several times a day after reading your favorite newsletters and trying to access some research, white papers, profile settings and more.”

      - Carine Roman,

“Using HTTP cookies, we can calculate: Total audience size, audience turnover, user frequency histogram over a period of time, user lifetime histogram, day-to-day audience overlap and site-to-site audience overlap”

      - Michael Griffiths,

“Cookies are an important core Internet browser technology, comparable to your barber recognizing you each time you visit, that enables sites like ours to efficiently deliver a growing suite of services based on the ability to know and remember our users between visits.”

      - Bill Irvine,

“Cookies enable us to keep content and advertising relevant to consumers both in terms of content and timing, and they ensure the delivery of this content and advertising without compromising anyone’s privacy.  Unlike traditional media, interactive media need not know a consumer’s name, address, or credit card information to deliver the right content at the right time.  That’s what cookies enable.”

      - Jay Habegger,

“Cookies enable my website to provide timely and useful information to expectant moms during pregnancy and beyond.”

      - Neil Street,

“Media6Degrees delivers offerings for advertisers to the people who will respond best to them. To do this we purchase media from publishers across the Internet in a manner which would be impossible without using 3rd-party cookies to identify the audiences that our advertisers are interested in addressing. In addition, we rely on 3rd-party cookies to control the flow of advertisements which provides a better user experience by limiting the number of times an individual sees a particular advertisement.”

      - Alec Greenberg,

“Cookies allow me to reach the users who like to play games and connect them to my game site and applications. I am disabled, and thanks to the internet and cookies I am able to support myself and my family and stay off of Social Security and welfare.”

      - Katherine Girod,

“Cookies allow me to provide a better experience to my visitors by storing their preferences and using them as they navigate through my website. This helps them to avoid constant inconveniences of providing their preferences on every page.”

      - Amol Vyavhare,

“Cookies help me operate the world’s best website on defense and security issues.”

      - John Pike,

“We would be unable to provide these FREE services or feed our families without the use of cookies.  They allow us to provide a better customer experience to our viewers, which could not be done without cookies.”

      - Andy Robinowitz, 

“Cookies help me get my products in front of the customers who actually want to buy our products, thereby assuring our business continues to grow and provide employment opportunities to the community.”

      - Richard Sexton,

“Since my site is geographically specific, local advertisers can have their messages appear on the site where the largest potential customer base exists. Without the cookies used in serving banner ads, this process would go away, and possibly prevent those messages from reaching the target audience. The cookies make what is delivered to online reader relevant.

      - Perry Klaussen,

“Cookies allow me to create a better user experience for my website, making it easier for my readers to access information quickly and efficiently, plus be a bigger part of the community.”

      - Jon Berlinghoff,

“Cookies allow us tailor information that helps them use our site much more efficiently.”

      - Greg Brown,

“Cookies enable my community to exist as a free and streamlined platform for individuals to discuss prescription drugs with one another.”

      - Nick Jabbour,

“Cookies allow me to deliver advertising in an effective manner and that allows me to make a living and provide a valuable service to my readers at no charge.”

      - Ron Lemon,

“Cookies allowed me to build the best place online for people to find more information about parenting and how to get your child into acting without being taken advantage of.”

      - Steve Shurak,

“Our community uses cookies to manage personal logins across three travel sites which feature expert reviews, trip blogs, or forum Q&As, allowing consumers to make more informed decisions about their next family vacation destination.”

      - Kyle McCarthy,

“I prefer patronizing a store that knows me and recommends something they know I’ll like versus an impersonal store that recommends whatever they’ve got on the shelf. Happily, cookies allow that same familiarity and make the web a friendlier and more relevant place to shop.”

      - John Knapp,

“Cookies let my customers access their private data securely without having to log in again every time.”

      - John Manoogian,

“Part of my business model is utilizing affiliate advertising which realizes on the honest use of cookies to generate revenue. We serve our dedicated customers by providing quality content and provide ways to purchase products and services through our affiliates.”

      - Jason E. Renda,

We’re publishing these comments—many of them from independent entrepreneurs whose “long tail” retail and ad-supported sites would not be possible without the use of cookies and other core elements of the Internet’s infrastructure—because we think the Government is engaging in unfortunate game-playing.

We are not refuting, contradicting or picking at the FTC’s concern for consumer privacy on the ad-supported Internet. Indeed, we are as passionate about it as the Federal Government and the so-called “privacy advocacy groups.” We support vigorous FTC enforcement of privacy regulations and the pursuit of violators, and we appreciate the FTC’s continuing support for industry self-regulation as the most effective means for assuring that consumer privacy rights and expectations are honored.

Here’s where we part ways: The IAB believes with equal passion that the ability to advertise legal products and services is central to the functioning of a capitalist economy, and an essential support structure for the news media that underpin American democracy. And we find abject attacks on whole categories of technology a form of technological McCarthyism that has little place in a sophisticated debate about how best to protect consumers and companies together.

We welcome the opportunity to bring technology experts from IAB member companies to the Commission to discuss it with them, rather than politic it on cable TV.

Randall Rothenberg is President & CEO of the IAB


On December 7 in San Francisco, Quova sponsored the IAB’s last Innovator’s Round Table Dinner (IRD) of 2010, and I had the honor of being their host.  The event was held at the popular Peruvian eatery La Mar, on Pier 1 (the food was fabulous, and if you go, be sure to order a ‘Pisco Sour’ from the bar). Having been sponsored by an industry leader in online geo location the conversation—not surprisingly—centered on the following topics related to location-based advertising:

  • The benefit of geo-location to advertisers and marketers
  • The opportunities and risks created by the joining of online and offline data
  • The responsibility and challenges of protecting consumer’s privacy.

I had the pleasure of sitting with a table of overachievers that included LaurieAnne Lassek and Walter Beisheim of Quova, Michael McGuire and Alicia Gubba of Gartner, Jack Androvich of AutoDesk and Chase Norlin of Alphabird.  I am still kicking myself for not asking the origin of the name “Alphabird” (perhaps it is the bird that incited the violence depicted by Alfred Hitchcock?).  

Our spirited conversation brought interesting points. The benefit of location awareness to advertisers was summed up in the term “relevance.”  Relevance is a nuanced term in the digital advertising industry. However, if you think of all the information we can know about a consumer and their interests before delivering an ad, it’s all potentially useless if our offers are poorly targeted with regard to a consumer’s location. For instance, my interest in Peruvian food and music is generally irrelevant, EXCEPT when I am visiting San Francisco. Then it becomes highly relevant—to La Mar

The joining of offline and online data remains a touchy subject. While we did not delve deeply into why, we did acknowledge that regulation is coming in this area, and there are challenges. One of those challenges is how to use merged data to effectively market to consumers, without making them feel as if they were being ‘stalked’ in the real world based on their online activity. Companies that control offline consumer data manage a terrifying amount of personal information.  If offline personal information is merged with online profiles, and that merger results in highly targeted online offers, there may be a risk of alarming, rather than enticing consumers—thus breaking the trust relationship between consumer and brand.  When consumers lose the ability to exercise control over their personal information, the issue becomes very sensitive. Our industry would be wise to offer consumers meaningful choice to enhance trust, not break it.  This of course, led us naturally to the last topic. 

We fear what we do not understand. The Federal Trade Commission is reminding us of this every day. If we do not want to risk driving the consumer away, then our industry must take steps to earn their trust. Trust is built through educating and offering meaningful choice to consumers. As such, the self-regulatory work we are engaged in (see will need to evolve to include targeting based on location awareness.

This was the third IRD I have attended, and the first I have hosted.  These are special events—always intimate, personal and full of stimulating conversation. Thanks to Quova for sponsoring, and thank you to all those who attended and participated.

Happy Holidays!

Steve Sullivan is VP Digital Supply Chain Solutions for the IAB