February 2011 Archives

In the past 30 days, we’ve seen Do Not Track proposals reach a crescendo, and the stakes for both the industry and the consumer can’t be overstated. Many of the proposals strike at the core of how web content is delivered, optimized, and funded, and would have a highly disruptive impact on medium to small size firms. Many influential parties are supportive of Do Not Track (DNT), but they all define the concept differently. Does DNT address the consumer need? And how could the DNT debates shape your view of the self-regulatory program?

Let me catch you up on some recent events. In July 2010, FTC Chairman John Leibowitz expressed support for DNT in congressional testimony. In December 2010, an FTC privacy report featured DNT and a House subcommittee held a DNT hearing. In January 2011, the CDT published a paper proposing a definition of ‘tracking’ for DNT. Also in January, Microsoft, Google, and Mozilla announced significant new features to make available widely different forms of browser based DNT.

DNT carries heavy associations with the Do Not Call list, which the FTC launched in 2003. But Do Not Call dealt with an issue that was substantially less complicated and did not require browser level technology to enforce. Tracking occurs invisibly, many times, by many parties on the typical page load, and for diverse purposes, many of which the consumer expects. To keep bad actors at bay, government would need more than legal recourse, but also technology solutions that would block trackers across a global internet.

Do Not Track: What IS it?

Presumably, a Do Not Track service could allow a consumer to stop third parties from monitoring and recording her online behavior. But two major complications arise immediately, even amongst DNT supporters:

#1: Definition of ‘tracking’: 3rd parties span a wide range of business models, many of which provide basic functionality on the internet that consumers have come to expect, even if specifics of how these 3rd parties use their data are not well understood. Most DNT proponents will concede that there are substantial categories of tracking that should be exempted from DNT to preserve basic web functionality, including 1st party tracking, tracking for anti-fraud purposes, tracking for aggregated analytics, tracking for fulfillment of basic transactions, etc. Therefore, after signing up for DNT, tracking would continue, sometimes for behavioral advertising (1st party), sometimes by 3rd parties for ad selection (frequency capping), and by a range of 3rd parties (analytics, shopping cart providers, security firms, etc). Where does a reasonable person draw the line so that consumers are protected without breaking an excessive portion of how they expect the internet to behave? And assuming that the right balance can be found, how will consumers feel about a DNT solution that bills itself as simple, but represents the realization of a complicated policy conversation and fails to stop a wide array of tracking?

#2: Implementation: Assuming that we can resolve the definition question, who will run this beast? Public companies with massive advertising operations that operate most of the leading browsers? These companies also have some of the leading 1st party consumer brands on the internet, which exempt them from many of the tracking categories blocked by DNT, which begins to sound like a conflict. So who then, the government? If DNT should be simplified, who is the natural provider?

Preservation of Choice and the ‘Great Lost Consumer’

We’re in the midst of a golden age of innovation in privacy technologies. Consumers that are so inclined have a growing array of tools to manage their privacy online. These tools range from the aggressive and technical (NoScript, Adblock Plus), to the simple and ad industry friendly (NAI/AboutAds.info opt-out page, Facebook privacy settings), with many options in between (Ghostery, which Evidon operates; TrackerBlock, etc.) Each of these tools approaches the policy, technology, and larger political conversation differently, which is precisely the point. Privacy requires the active management of trade-offs.

So if the proactive already have ways of creating their own DNTs, why do we need a formal DNT? It’s about the passive majority, which can collectively be described as the ‘Great Lost Consumer.’ Does the Great Lost Consumer really know that they are being tracked on the internet? Are they aware that when they log onto the New York Times, more than 1 company is collecting data about them? The data actually suggest that yes, they do. The majority of them know that they’re being tracked, and they know that companies are tracking them to customize content and advertising. The Great Lost Consumer is not nearly as hopelessly unaware as many advocates would have you believe.

Now it’s also true that consumers don’t know enough about who is tracking them, what their data is being used for, and how to take control. This is where the industry needs to improve substantially, both through the self-regulatory program and beyond. The consumer needs contextual notice, real information, and easy controls.

Perhaps the most dangerous impact of a formal DNT, is that it becomes a mass invite to the passive majority to participate in a discussion about complicated and personal value propositions on false pretenses. If you ask the Great Lost Consumer if they want to be tracked, the answer is no. If you ask her if they prefer customized content and advertising, the answer is yes. We would therefore expect for a great portion of the population to sign up for DNT and to be frustrated by the results. If they reverse their decision, they are back where they started, no more informed and sour on the whole experience.

The consumer also expects the content they consume to continue unabated, but the networks and data companies that would be most impacted by a DNT list, are precisely the companies that small and medium sized web sites rely upon to compete with the biggest players. The top companies have 1st party relationships with the consumer and massive scale. If smaller sites can’t pool their audiences leveraging 3rd party technologies, they will wither and die.

DNT relies on the false promise of a privacy ‘on-off’ switch, and encourages the masses to make a blunt decision, without context, with massive negative impact on industry that will circle back to the consumer.

DNT and Self-Regulation: What’s a company to do?

Advertising-Option-Icon.gifDespite all of the DNT talk, the Self-Regulatory Program for Behavioral Advertising is beginning to make a significant impact. In October of 2010, the Digital Advertising Alliance launched with a cross industry Advertising Options Icon. Over the first four months of the program, Evidon delivered over 10 billion icons on behalf of advertisers, each with notice about targeting and opt-out choice for the companies behind the campaign. Over 400,000 people clicked through on the icon to pages that informed them about how their data was being used, with the great majority declining to opt-out. In the first quarter of 2011, both the DMA and the BBB will launch their enforcement programs.

The leading trade associations for online marketing, including the IAB, are unified behind the program, and view it to be industry’s best hope to avoid draconian legislation and now ‘draconian DNT.’ We could still have a bill (several are circulating and more are expected). We could still have DNT. Avoiding both entirely may be a long shot. But what kind of bill? And will DNT allow responsible players to continue their businesses without massive disruption?

The folks in DC that will ultimately define these programs are challenging industry to step up and give them a reason to believe that self-regulation has a role to play. And depending on how widely credible self-regulatory tools are deployed, they will decide how aggressively government needs to step in to fill the gap.

Time is of the essence right now. The window of opportunity to influence the conversation is beginning to close. Yet everyone believes that the commercial market has a role to play and want to see leaders on privacy rewarded.

So to aid your evaluation of where your company should stand with the self-regulatory program, consider the following:

  • If self-regulation fails, we get draconian legislation + draconian DNT
  • If self-regulation succeeds, we likely get neither
  • If this ends in a compromise, all indications are that corporate leaders in the self-regulatory movement will be rewarded
  • If you want to influence the outcome, you must act now
  • The self-regulatory movement is about empowering the consumer; do right by the consumer and your brand will benefit (with or without a self-regulatory program)

It’s time to get on board with self-regulation and DNT is just the latest in a list of good reasons.

Colin O’Malley is Co-Founder & VP of Business Development and Policy for Evidon and member of the IAB’s Networks & Exchanges Committee and Public Policy Council.

You can reach him via email or on Twitter @micshasan and @evidon.

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caption.pngRecently, I sat down for lunch with John Schneider, Vice President of Sales at Federated Media and my newly appointed co-chair at the IAB Social Media Committee, to prepare for our first meeting today, February 23rd. Our heads are abuzz with new ideas for 2011, so we thought it would be best to tee up our first meeting with a blog post outlining our thoughts in order to really encourage discussion.

The first thought, and this is probably on everyone’s mind, is whether “Social Media” has become too broad of a category. Social Media is really all things… games, mobile, video, etc. I’ve written about this before (See: Accept Everything We Do Is Social (And ‘Like’ It)), the trend of all media becoming social. This being the case, the question we face at the IAB is: how do we encourage collaboration between the Social Media Committee and other IAB Committees - such as the Games, Digital Video, and Mobile Advertising Committees, among others, to move the interactive advertising industry forward? In the long run, does it make sense for the other Committees to roll into the Social Media Committee, should the Social Media Committee break up and become part of the other Committees, or will we be able to maintain a delicate co-existence through clearly defined rules and boundaries? These are questions we don’t know the answers to, yet.

But until then, our roles as the Social Media Committee co-chairs are to make sure we drive forward. We need to get the right companies involved. Some - like Zynga, Twitter, and Groupon - are not, yet, IAB members and need to be recruited, while others are IAB members that need to be engaged in the right ways to ensure their involvement and insights.

As our Committee membership grows, our audience’s interests become more diverse. That means that for any topic we discuss, it will appeal to some participants and not others, and that’s okay - we need to make it easier for members to self-select the discussions and topics that are relevant to them, perhaps on a quarterly basis.

How do we get actionable content to the marketplace quickly and consistently? You shouldn’t have to wait all year long for a white-paper or buyers guide that is out of date by the time the next one comes along. Can we create something digital? What about an agency day or thought pieces produced on a quarterly basis?

We’d love to hear feedback on these questions. The term “Social Media” from an advertising standpoint includes various pillars, such as media, community management and activity, and our role in driving the social marketing landscape is more important than ever. We need to start taking a more fine-grained approach to understanding the social activities taking place on various social mediums, whether on apps, mobile or the Web, and then we need to lay down guidelines for how advertisers can add value. I’d like to end this post with a quote from someone I’ve followed for a long time - Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and formerly of Morgan Stanley, “Advertising,” she says, “… we think it’s ripe for innovation. We’ve been waiting for online advertising to show its stuff for about 15 years.” I couldn’t agree more. Through “social” we have the opportunity to throw out the digital playbook of today and show our “stuff.”

Let’s make 2011 the year.

Chris Cunningham is co-founder and CEO of appssavvy and co-chair of the IAB Social Media Committee. Reach him via email or follow him on Twitter @appssavvyceo.

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Wow! The first quarter of 2011 has been a busy and exciting one as I’ve had the opportunity to constantly collaborate across key IAB committees focused on measurement standards, consumer transparency and other best-practice based initiatives. In many cases, I was one of the welcome recipients of the fruits of our cross-industry labor. In other cases, issues we are addressing through our IAB membership highlighted the fact that not everyone in our “industry” is on the same page around key issues, such as how to count or measure digital audiences and/or the best approach to empowering consumers. The beauty is that the IAB served as a good meeting place and forum to discuss everything. To that point, because of the collaboration, we are making progress.

At a sub-committee level, I recently assumed the chair position for the IAB email committee. I’ve been very impressed by the work of the committee and am so excited about the current project.

This quarter, the email committee, a cross-functional working group that includes members from over a dozen publishers, vendors and agencies including Erik Kokkonen from CBS Interactive and Chris Ambrosio from ValueClick Media, is at the tail end of producing an addendum to the 4A’s/IAB Standard Terms and Conditions for Interactive Advertising 3.0. Why the addendum? As many of the committee members realized, when the blue-chip companies they represent adopted the original Terms and Conditions, although the best practices were extremely valuable for those engaged in Interactive Advertising for Media Buys, they didn’t translate well or address the specific requirements of email and performance-based advertising campaigns. The committee decided to fix this by drafting a highly practical addendum that specifies Ts and Cs for these scenarios. While it might sound easy, it wasn’t. In fact, once this document is done we will really have attorneys like Tanya Tan from ValueClick Media & Steven Vine from Datran Media and business leaders like Tara Aiken from Perform Line to thank for making sure that the Ts and Cs are meaningful; specific enough to be of value and broad enough to promote business versus stalling it.

Right now, the Ts and Cs document is receiving final committee tweaks. It will then go live for public comment. Post comment, key change requests will be included, and the Ts and Cs will be issued for industry use.

Sound interesting? While I am guessing there’s not going to be a mad rush to a committee that delights in ensuring nuances like this are defined, if you are one of the special few, please do email [email protected] to join our efforts. We’d love to have you on board.

Lana McGilvray is Vice-President, Marketing for Datran Media and chair of the IAB Lead Gen/Email Committee. You can reach her via email or follow her on Twitter @LanaMcGilvray.

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Last week, I was lucky enough to escape the frozen tundra of New York for a few days to moderate a panel with a group of members of the IAB Mobile Committee (folks from CBS Interactive, Millennial Media, Pandora, and TargetSpot) at the Online Marketing Summit in San Diego. I thought (though as moderator I may be biased) it was a great conversation, looking at the year ahead in mobile advertising.

iStock_000007887592XSmall.jpgWe kicked off by tackling one of the great industry clichés, namely that this is “the year of mobile.” This phrase has been a constant at every mobile meeting, event, summit, and panel since at least 1999, and onstage at OMS the panel agreed that we need to move beyond it. “Year of mobile” is irrelevant, because we’re living in the era of mobile, and it’s something that publishers, agencies, and marketers alike need to understand and internalize. With that in mind, I committed to never utter the phrase “year of mobile” at a conference again. If you catch me doing it, call me on it.

Someone did raise the question of whether this is the “year of the tablet,” which I reserve the right to repeat ad nauseum.

The best takeaways from the panel were some great pieces of advice for marketers, including the following:

  • You can’t just cram a full website down onto a mobile device and expect success. Even if the network and smartphone can display your content, the screen real estate and more importantly the consumer mindset are different in the mobile world, so sites optimized for mobile will always do better than repurposed Web pages as mobile destinations/landing pages.
  • Don’t create a mobile silo. Mobile works best when it’s integrated into a broader marketing strategy. Simply throwing the $30K left over after the rest of the campaign is planned out at mobile is not a path to success. In fact as mobile increasingly becomes the glue that binds all the other media in a campaign together, it’s going to be ever more important to consider mobile at the outset of any campaign planning process.
  • Let someone else do the heavy lifting. Let’s face it, mobile is a complex landscape. With upwards of 5,000 devices and 15 operating systems, making sure that a campaign, site, or app works across devices and networks is hard. But there are tons of companies that can help manage that complex landscape.
  • Focus on people, not devices. While it’s tempting to plan a campaign tailored to the new, hot device on the market, marketers should approach mobile like they do any other medium, and start with the goal of the campaign and who they want to reach. The device(s) to target should follow from that. In some cases it’ll be a specific device or operating system, but usually it’ll be a combination of several. Mobile’s evolved beyond targeting solely based on sites or devices; explore opportunities to target demographic, psychographic, and behavioral segments.
  • Plan success metrics early to focus on the right ones. Mobile is a chance to grow an interactive advertising business with the hindsight of what we did right, and wrong, on the Web. Avoiding click-throughs becoming a dominant success metric would be a great win for Web hindsight. Clicks to mobile landing pages are just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do (and measure) with mobile ad campaigns. Interactions, shares, texts, calls, stores located, apps downloaded, views, coupon redemptions, and impressions, are all possible success metrics—and nearly everything is measurable. Just like the web, think about the goals of the campaign first, figure out what success metrics will matter, and go from there.

It’s an exciting year for the industry (even if I can’t call it the year of you-know-what), and an exciting time for the IAB as we ramp up our resources devoted to helping the mobile advertising industry grow. The IAB published a Mobile Buyer’s Guide in 2009. That was a long time ago in mobile terms, but the advice in it is actually pretty consistent with the points the panel discussed: details may change, but good strategy is good strategy. Marketers who want to learn more can start by looking there, and feel free to get in touch with the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence. We’re eager to help!

Joe Laszlo is Deputy Director of the Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence, at the IAB

The Challenge of Self Governance: An Experiment in Herding Cats

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I have always been a fan of the expression, “As easy as herding cats.” The visualization of a cowboy riding horseback, while trying to keep a ‘herd’ of felines all headed in the same direction never fails to bring me a smile. I guess there is just something amusing about imagining a serious and earnest attempt to achieve what every rational person would think was not possible. And yet, I am also drawn to the expression, “Nothing worth doing is easily done.” For three years the members of IAB Networks & Exchanges Committee, charged with drafting and evangelizing the committee’s Quality Assurance Guidelines (QAG), have lived at the confluence of these two expressions.

A self-imposed set of proposed best practices for ad networks and exchanges, the QAG were drafted to assure advertisers a necessary level of transparency into their online advertising placements. The idea is that ‘compliant’ players will wear their ‘certification’ as a sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, allowing advertisers a way to separate the good eggs from the bad. And, while we know that the QAG initiative must be an ongoing process in order to keep up with a rapidly evolving industry landscape, speaking as a member of the committee, I can certainly say that we are all very proud to have taken this important step toward making the industry more desirable to prominent brand advertising budgets.

As an original member of the committee’s QAG working group, I can testify that committee members often had opposing interests on specific points, and there were any number of ‘grey’ issues to consider and weigh. “What actually constitutes ‘porn’?” “What should constitute ‘direct’ vs. ‘indirect’ relationships with publishers?” And even, “Does a cartoon involving a not-so-clever coyote and a seemly sadistic road-runner constitute ‘animal cruelty’?”

Luckily, the importance of what we were doing won the day, and in June of last year the committee officially unveiled the guidelines.  22 ad networks have already pledged to adopt the new standards of practice and have committed to be fully compliant in early 2011. And now for the next step in self-governance: universal adoption.

Committed to making the display landscape a safe place for scalable brand budgets, I have volunteered, along with my colleague, Matt Boyd, SVP at ValueClick, to co-chair the marketing working group responsible for educating the industry on the importance and significance of the guidelines. We will, of course, evangelize these guidelines to potential compliant companies. And the task of evangelizing to the buyers of ad network inventory will be equally important. Without buyers seeing the value of this initiative—and choosing to work only with compliant networks—the guidelines would end up little more than then the paper they are printed on.

Be on the lookout for our first piece of content, a QAG marketing group produced video, showcasing the people of the committee and their dedication to this project. The video will debut later this month at the upcoming IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in La Quinta. It will document thoughts on the importance of this effort from some of the most active members of the drafting committee.

With the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting as a jumping off point, the marketing workgroup will be executing a number of additional initiatives throughout the year. If you’re an IAB member and would like to participate, please email [email protected] or phone (212) 380-4715. We look forward to your involvement and support.

Much thanks,

Rob Rasko

Rob Rasko is COO & President of CPX Interactive and a member of the IAB Networks & Exchanges Committee.

The Moment of Truth Is Upon Us

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“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them”

— Galileo Galilei

Galileo’s quote is timeless. In life and in business, the journey—the process of discovery—is the hard part. In life, it is also frequently the beautiful part. In business, getting to that crystal clear, diamond sharp piece of insight that just simply dazzles is the hard part. Making money using it is usually quite simple.

In today’s busy world, where businesses seek short cuts and lowest possible costs and where vested interests often overshadow the best interests of all concerned, discovering truths seems like an overly lofty aspiration. Why expend financial, intellectual and time resources when the status quo, as imperfect as it is, is tolerable?

In digital measurement, why upset the chaos that sometimes cloaks itself as innovation? Why seek truths when various conflicting facsimiles of truths that cost money and render the supply chain inefficient are already part of how we do business?

Ultimately, we pay a high price for not investing in the discovery of truths about measurement. Total media spend could increase by a net 2% or $8 billion (on a 2010 base) in cross platform spend. Interactive advertising spend could increase by as much as 10% if we uncover the fundamental truths of measurement.

In the coming weeks, IAB general members will be called upon to support the cross ecosystem measurement initiative we have been previewing for some time. The opportunity for a coalition of marketers, agencies and media sellers to define the metrics and systems needed to do business efficiently is upon us. The ANA, the 4A’s and the IAB are partnering to develop the next generation of measurement and have selected an independent third party to facilitate the discovery of measurement truths.

This is the moment to embrace Galileo’s thinking. This is the moment to finally discover simple measurement truths that will allow for the right media allocations to flow through a simplified supply chain. This is the moment to invest in the best interests of the entire ecosystem.

We urge you to generously support the effort to discover the simple truths of measurement.

Sherrill Mane is Senior Vice President for Industry Services at the IAB.

Source for estimates: various studies and forecasts developed by Ernst and Young, 2010.