Google’s Mobile Targeting: Encourage More Searches, Location Targeting

Not enough is known about Google’s mobile plans.  Here’s an excerpt from New Media Age [UK] magazine from May 2008:

Google is tweaking its mobile offering to encourage people to perform more searches. It has also increased the options available to advertisers by launching mobile image ads. These are keyword-targeted, priced on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis, and must link to a mobile web page. Google will only show one image ad per page, and lets publishers choose to show text ads, image ads or a mix.

Christian Hernandez Gallardo, head of distribution partnerships for Google, says there’s increased demand from publishers…He expects that advertising will be a key component to raising awareness and says many big content providers are already reaping the benefits of this approach. “They’re buying a lot of keywords and ads on Google to drive traffic.”

Another key ingredient for Google is location, which could lead to a further inventory opportunity on which advertisers could bid for prime position. “If you search for ‘pizza London’, we’ll capture that as your location and use it as a weight to your searches,” Gallardo says.”

source:  Search Pattern.  Peggy Anne Salz.  NMA Magazine.  May 8, 2008

Mobile Privacy Watch: What Mobile Marketers Can Target [Hint, it includes “Race/Ethnicty, Level of education, Socio-economic status”…]

Mobile Marketer, an excellent mobile trade publication, just published a 2009 “Mobile Advertising Essentials” guide.  In the section titled “What to Look For in a Mobile Advertising Partner,” it summarizes the kinds of targeting marketers should expect.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Mobile advertising partners should offer a wide array of targeting capabilities, the most common which include: Age, Gender, Race/ethncity, Level of education, Socio-economic status, Location, Carrier, Handset manufacturer and type, Handset platform or operating system, Handset capabilities (i.e. Web-enabled or vide-enabled), Time of day, Day of week.”

Congressional Internet Caucus–Brought to You by Google, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T, CTIA and More!

We hope the era of government reform that should be a hallmark of the incoming Obama Administration and the new Congress will include reforming the Congressional Internet Caucus.

For too long, the Caucus agenda has been under the influence of the “Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus.”  This is not an independent group–but one with connections deep into the Silicon Valley and communications business.  Last week’s annual State of the ‘Net Congressional Caucus meeting was funded by “platinum sponsors” Google, Microsoft, and Verizon.  The “gold sponsors” were AT&T,  the Center for Democracy and Technology (which is funded by many of these same corporations), CTIA (The Wireless Association), and VeriSign.  “Notepads” were provided by the Hunton & Williams law firm; “Laynards” were paid for by Juniper Networks.  “Coffee Breaks” paid for by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.  Qwest provided “bags.”  The Venable law firm gave out the “travel coffee mugs.’

As always, the agenda of the meeting was purposefully narrow, to help ensure none of the corporate sponsors would be seriously challenged. Broadband policy is too important an issue to be left in the hands of a few well-funded DC insiders.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Official Definition of Behavioral Targeting

As the debate on privacy, consumer protection, and online marketing is renewed, it may be useful to see how the interactive ad industry classifies its practices.  Here is the definition of behavioral targeting from the IAB’s own glossary of terms.  My bold:
“Behavioral Targeting-
A technique used by online publishers and advertisers to increase the effectiveness of their campaigns. Behavioral targeting uses information collected on an individual’s web browsing behavior such as the pages they have visited or the searches they have made to select which advertisements to be displayed to that individual. Practitioners believe this helps them deliver their online advertisements to the users who are most likely to be influenced by them.

Here are a few other terms used by the IAB that illustrate some of the the online ad industry’s data collection and targeting process:

Click-stream –
1) the electronic path a user takes while navigating from site to site, and from page to page within a site; 2) a comprehensive body of data describing the sequence of activity between a user’s browser and any other Internet resource, such as a Web site or third party ad server.
Heuristic –
a way to measure a user’s unique identity. This measure uses deduction or inference based on a rule or algorithm which is valid for that server. For example, the combination of IP address and user agent can be used to identify a user in some cases. If a server receives a new request from the same client within 30 minutes, it is inferred that a new request comes from the same user and the time since the last page request was spent viewing the last page. Also referred to as an inference.

Profiling –
the practice of tracking information about consumers’ interests by monitoring their movements online. This can be done without using any personal information, but simply by analyzing the content, URL’s, and other information about a user’s browsing path/click-stream.
Unique user –
unique individual or browser which has either accessed a site (see unique visitor) or which has been served unique content and/or ads such as e-mail, newsletters, interstitials and pop-under ads. Unique users can be identified by user registration or cookies. Reported unique users should filter out bots. See for ad campaign measurement guidelines
Web beacon
a line of code which is used by a Web site or third party ad server to track a user’s activity, such as a registration or conversion. A Web beacon is often invisible because it is only 1 x 1 pixel in size with no color. Also known as Web bug, 1 by 1 GIF, invisible GIF and tracker GIF.

Mobile Privacy & Marketing Watch: Protecting Hispanics

One of the areas my group and USPIRG asked the Federal Trade Commission to address in our complaint filed this week was mobile marketing to Hispanic-Americans.  An entire marketing infrastructure has evolved to target this important group; many questions remain about what they are being offered and how the mobile marketing has been structured. As Media Post explained yesterday in an article on the Hispanic mobile market: “…because they lag behind the general population for Internet access, many will first go online via their cell phones. In fact, they significantly over-index when consuming mobile content. According to comScore m:metrics, 71% of Hispanics consume content on cell phones compared to the market average of 48%. In addition, Hispanics tend to notice and respond well to ads on cell phones. Nielsen’s recent “Mobile Advertising Report” highlighted that Hispanic data users are more likely to recall seeing ads on mobile phones (41% compared with 30% of non-Hispanics) and more likely to have responded (22% vs. 13%).”

One mobile marketing company that is now also focused on the Hispanic market promises potential advertisers that it “utilizes advanced profiling capabilities that are inherent to the platform’s automated learning engine – meaning that the platform learns from previous customer interactions to automatically and organically build up profiles of users and their individual preferences. Each subsequent campaign is then automatically optimized (no human interaction is required!) in order to deliver the most personalized message possible that is based 100% on the user’s profile.”

We are not opposed to mobile marketing.  But systems of data collection, profiling, and targeting must be transparent, disclosed, and controllable (a real opt-in) by the users.

Google’s Android: Expanding Mobile Marketing and Data Collection

Just for the record, via New Media Age [excerpt]:

“Google’s ambitions in the mobile space go beyond most other internet companies…Google recognises the value of its ad-funded proposition may outweigh maintaining full ownership of the platform, so it’s handing over the keys to developers in order to maximise creativity and scope of applications while maintaining control over the earning potential of mobile advertising….

Google says it will give 70% of Android revenues to the developer and the remainder, less billing settlement fees, to the service provider — a fantastic prospect for many. But others question the need for all of Google’s own web applications to come preloaded on Android, raising concerns about an attempt to lock in the user rather than directing them to the Android Market store. Google denies this, saying it has created a platform to encourage consumers and developers to embrace the wider internet.”

source:  nma mobile: Google Android. Andrew Darling.  NMA magazine. 04.12.08 [sub required]

FTC Revolving Door: From Director of Consumer Protection to Law firm Partner at “the premier provider of legal services to technology, life sciences”

Lydia Parnes has been the director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC.  Think about where we are today in consumer protection–and the many problems we face.  Consider the role of the FTC on financial issues [the subprime market] to online privacy to youth obesity.  And then look at this January 13, 2009 press release from “Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the premier provider of legal services to technology, life sciences, and growth enterprises worldwide.”  Excerpt:

“…announced that Lydia Parnes will join the firm as a new partner in March. The current director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Parnes is a highly regarded expert in the field of consumer protection, particularly in the areas of privacy, data security, Internet advertising, and general advertising and marketing practices. She will be based in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office.

“The global regulatory climate has grown more stringent and complex, and we have seen an increasing need for expanded expertise on consumer-protection issues from our clients, especially those in the technology and digital media sectors,” said CEO John Roos. “As one of the country’s foremost consumer-protection officials, Lydia brings unparalleled experience to the firm’s regulatory practice when it comes to privacy, security, and other consumer concerns.”

We don’t believe government officials should immediately work for industry in the areas they regulated after leading the government.  They should pursue careers in academia or non-profit organizations, if possible.  As long as there is a revolving door of this sort, doubts about the ability of the FTC to protect consumers will continue.

Google Supports Greater “Micro-targeting” of Ads on its Content Network

Google is working with online ad company Tumri to facilitate greater ad targeting.  According to Behavioral Insider [excerpt]:
“What we’re doing with Google is that for the first time they’re opening up the interface on their contextual network. So as an ad is being served they pass us keyword information and we adjust the ad subcomponents in real time, based on the context of the page the reader is looking at on a keyword level. Examining the contextual information and marrying that with past search and behavioral patterns, elevates the level of targeting.

… With Tumri, Google is opening their interface and architecture to allow Tumri to access keywords for pages. When an ad is served, the Google content network will pass through Tumri with recommendation of content, and Tumri will refine that further.”

In Tumri’s January 6, 2009 release announcing the Google deal, it noted that:  “Tumri’s participation in context-aware ads on the Google content network benefits advertisers by allowing Google to feed its contextual page information about web page content into Tumri’s dynamic ad generation engine. Tumri’s AdPod seamlessly generates highly-targeted marketing messages in real time through its dynamic, intelligent ad optimization and presentation layer based upon the advanced contextual information from Google…

The Tumri solution – the AdPod – enables advertisers to craft highly targeted marketing messages to consumers on-the-fly. The Tumri platform seamlessly deconstructs ad creatives into core sub-components, then enables advertisers to adjust each sub-component by targeting parameters or optimize by performance metrics… Tumri’s patent-pending platform optimizes performance at a sub-ad component level and delivers unparalleled consumer insights through its proprietary reporting.”

Google, YouTube, and DoubleClick Cookies Placed on Users of YouTube’s new Congress Channels, Says Computer Scientist

Columbia U computer professor Steven M. Bellovin has an important post on the privacy issues raised by YouTube’s new House and Senate channels.  He writes [excerpt, our emphasis] that:

“I opened a fresh web browser, with no cookies stored, and went directly to the House site. Just from that page, I ended up with cookies from YouTube, Google, and DoubleClick, another Google subsidiary. Why should Google know which members of Congress I’m interested in? Do they plan to correlate political viewing preferences with, say, searches I do on guns, hybrid cars, religion, privacy, etc.?

The incoming executive branch has made the same mistake: President-Elect Obama’s videos on are also hosted on (among others) YouTube. Nor does the privacy policy say anything at all about 3rd-party cookies.

Video channels providing the public access to members of Congress and the new Administration should be in the forefront of privacy protection-and not serve as a data collection shill for any company.  Nor should one company be permitted to shape broadband video access to federal officials.

Google Lobbying: Why Congress Should Not Use the new YouTube Senate and House Video Hubs

Google is taking a lobbying tactic developed in part by CSPAN years ago–offer members of Congress a free service so they can be seen by the public.  That kind of electronic or digital campaign contribution helps insure that Congress will think twice about biting (or regulating) the video hand that feeds.  Google’s new YouTube Senate and House Hub channels raise a number of concerns and policy questions.

For example, what happens to the user data as people click on the Congressional YouTube channels?  Does Google get to collect, analyze and use such data for its growing political online advertising business?  Beyond privacy, should Congress be endorsing a private for-profit venture as the principal access point voters and constituents need to use?  Does the use of YouTube create a potential conflict of interest for members of Congress who will need to regulate Google–on such things as competition (the DoJ recently described Google as a monopoly); privacy, consumer protection, etc (remember, Google sells all kinds of ads for mortgages, credit cards, junk food, health remedies, etc.).

It’s not a coincidence perhaps that Google’s YouTube congressional channel announcement comes at the same time the company is expanding its online ad business for politics.  As Ad Age reports this week,“The end of an election season usually means dismantling the campaign apparatus until the next cycle. But not at Google; not this year…Rather than packing it all away until 2010, it’s hoping to build a year-round political-advertising business one House seat and hot-button issue at a time.  “There are 500,000 elected officials in the U.S. With the advances we’ve made in geo-targeting, we think this will be part of every political campaign in the country, as well as issue campaigns,” said Peter Greenberger, Google’s director of election and issue advocacy…Google doesn’t yet offer targeting based on congressional districts, but with ZIP code and city targeting, politicians and advocacy groups can cobble together a reasonable approximation of a congressional district.”

The in-coming Obama Administration has had the support of Google’s CEO, and company officials have played a role in the transition.  But the new administration should develop a digital outreach approach to the public which is public–and non-commercial–in nature.  It shouldn’t show any favoritism, even if Google is the leading search and video service.  It should be a a government via dot com.

see: “Election  is Over, but Google Still Chasing Political Spending.”  Michael Learmonth.  Advertising Age.  January 12, 2009.