Watch this online video of Randall Rothenberg speaking before a June Federated Media Publishing event. In Mr. Rothenberg’s worldview, demon critics of advertising (such as myself) are deliberately trying to undermine democratic digital media. This would be absurd, if it wasn’t so sad. Mr. Rothenberg is using scare tactics to whip up his members into a frenzy-all so they can fight off laws and regulations designed to provide consumers real control over their data and information. Luckily, Mr. Rothenberg will be on the losing side of this battle to protect consumers in the digital era. Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic understand how the digital marketing ecosystem raises serious concerns about privacy and consumer welfare. We have to say we are disappointed in John Battelle, the CEO of Federated (who wrote a very good book entitled The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture). Mr. Battelle should know that the online marketing system requires a series of safeguards which protects citizens and consumers. There is a balance to be struck here. Online advertisers have unleashed some of the most powerful tools designed to track, analyze, and target individuals–whether on social networks, or watching broadband video, or using mobile devices. We have never said there shouldn’t be advertising. We understand the important role it must play, including for the underwriting of online content. But the online ad system should not be designed and controlled solely by ad networks, online publishers, trade groups and online ad lobbying groups. It must be structured in a way which promotes as much freedom for individuals.
Granted, the IAB’s Washington, D.C. lobbying shop, opened last year, is a small operation. Now the IAB is in the process of hiring a second person for the office. No doubt IAB wants to protect the data collection and micro-targeting digital turf of its members. Former Tacoda and Time Warner exec. Dave Morgan perhaps revealed why the political stakes are so high for IAB members such as Google, AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, Disney, CBS, NY Times, Washington Post, etc. in Media Post. As Morgan explained, “.. Everybody now knows that data is the fuel for growth. Everyone is starting to mine it and make it available to third parties…The big four (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOLâ€™s Platform A) are all opening up their networks and systems to leverage third-party data; so are the ad servers like WPPâ€™s 24/7 Real Media; and so are the ad networks…Weâ€™re moving into a wild, wild west in monetizing real-time marketing data, and weâ€™re going to need many more people that know how to do this…As we see this data take on more value and play a bigger role in our industry, the public policy implications are going to become much more pronounced.”
Randall Rothenberg of the Interactive Advertising Bureau lobbying group wrote a commentary where he made a number of misleading statements. He incorrectly characterized the work of Professor Joseph Turow. Prof. Turow, a leading academic expert of the online marketing industry, is on the faculty of the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. Here is Professor Turow’s response:
“In one sentence, Mr Rothenberg manages to make two fundamental misrepresentations. What I really say on page 2 of my 2006 book Niche Envy (where the quote originates) explicitly relates to marketers use of surveillance technologies without consumers understanding: “Over the long haul, however, this intersection of large selling organizations and new surveillance technologies seems sure to encourage a particularly corrosive form of personal and social tension.” Nor do I anywhere lament the passage of the three network universe. For example, I explicitly state in Breaking Up (on page 199, for example) that three network era had its own forms of social exclusions and state that “that “the proper response to this hypersegmentation of America is not to urge a return to the mass-market world of the 1960s and 1970s.” My conclusion: when I see Mr Rothenberg quote someone I will be sure to check the source to make sure the passage has not been wrenched from its context. I should add, too, that I accept the need that digital interactive media have for target marketing and database marketing. But there are many creative ways to meld data analytics and their implementation with openness and public engagement. I fear that Mr Rothenberg”s policies and writings indicate he will lead this important organization in directions that are misguided for marketers and for society.
Scratch a media conglomerate–old or new–and you reveal a political agenda that is all about the aggrandizement of power–consumer and data privacy be damned. Here’s are excerpts from a Kate Kaye story on the roll-out of the state-based coalition designed to protect the interests of the online advertising industry.
“From California to Utah to New York, state legislators regularly propose laws with major implications for the online ad industry. A once-loose collective of companies including Google, Yahoo, AOL and eBay finally incorporated officially this year after four years of collaborating to influence state policy.
The most recent target of the State Privacy and Security Coalition’s efforts is New York Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, sponsor of a bill preventing third parties from using sensitive personally identifiable information for behavioral ad targeting.
The coalition doesn’t like it. A missive sent to the legislator April 7 by the coalition’s lead counsel calls the bill “unnecessary,” and “most likely unconstitutional.”…Jim Halpert, partner in the communications, e-commerce and privacy practice at law firm DLA Piper, penned that letter. As head counsel for the coalition, he also recently facilitated its incorporation.
“There’s much more state activity than federal activity,” said Halpert. Not only does that create more laws or proposed laws to deal with; the state process moves much faster.
According to Halpert, the coalition also includes Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and organizations such as the Internet Alliance and tech trade association AeA, formerly the American Electronics Association. With Halpert at the helm, coalition members conduct weekly phone calls, and sometimes meet in-person with other members or with state lawmakers to influence legislation involving online privacy and data security, Internet advertising, online child safety, content liability, spam, spyware, and taxation…
“We see the coalition’s role as helping state legislatures understand the technology policy area. I think we all recognize the technology environment can be complicated,” said Adam Kovacevich, Google’s senior manager, global communications and public affairs. Google Director of State Public Policy John Burchett is the firm’s primary liaison to the coalition.”
source: Google, AOL and others make state policy coalition official. Kate Kaye. clickz.com. April 14, 2008
The IAB has embraced a `circle the data collection and micro-targeting digital wagon’s’ with its new privacy principles. Instead of embracing a policy that truly protects consumer privacy, IAB members are trying to hide behind the same failed approach they have led to governmental inquiries in the US and the EU. The IAB should have adopted rules so that no data can be collected without full disclosure and prior consent of the consumer, as well as other fair information collection principles. The IAB’s proposed new PR campaign to promote the role of interactive marketing will undoubtedly by slick–but won’t be honest. That’s why my CDD will keep telling the FTC, the EU and the public about what really goes on with data collection and digital marketing. These slightly refurbished fox-watching-the-data-hen-house-privacy principles won’t provide any substantive protections for consumers. The failure of the IAB to acknowledge key issues related to sensitive data–including children, teens, financial (think subprime mortgage-related) and health–is a glaring failure of the group’s ability to do what is required to protect consumer privacy.
The IAB is trying to help its members dodge the digital privacy data bullet. But privacy advocates and officials concerned about consumer welfare in the digital age will eventually force the needed changes. What’s sad is that instead of playing a leadership role in the privacy debate, the IAB is attempting to stick with the past. Don’t they realize that change is coming?
Once again, we thank the ad industry for writing our blog (and regulatory!) copy: “”I think what we lose in being able to negotiate with both of them we’ll gain with new opportunities. The biggest opportunity would be to leverage Yahoo’s behavioral targeting across Microsoft’s relationships with Facebook, XBox and Massive, which has the ability to dynamically insert ads in console games.”–Andrea Kerr Redniss, SVP, Optimedia US.”
from: Madison Avenue: We Love MSFT-YHOO. Silicon Valley Insider. Feb. 1, 2008.
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When you can get the online ad industry to write your copy, it makes the work at the FTC and the European Commission so much easier! Here’s an excerpt from a revealing imediaconnection article entitled “Targeting Tips for a Converged Media World.” [Jan. 30, 2008]
“In days past, audience segmentation was based solely on demographic and contextual targeting information, which allowed advertisers to promote their products or services to a group of potential consumers based on their gender, age and other fairly unsophisticated, generic characteristics. In the online world, consumers now essentially determine their own segmentation based on individualized habits, determined through behavioral targeting…. Behavioral targeting…is also an additional way for marketers to target users further down the purchasing funnel and helps marketers better predict how users will act… Marketers will be able to track individuals or user clusters across their favorite TV shows, travel habits through their car’s GPS or obtain their video game proficiency through in-game advertising… As users age and change their personal preferences, behavioral targeting can change with users’ habits and compensate accordingly…With marketers able to include interactive components into traditional media outlets while infusing behavioral knowledge and targeting, advertisers must create messages that can be delivered across all platforms. For example, we could see mobile ads that use interactive elements if marketers know the behavioral cluster exhibits a preference for interactive media.”
An excerpt from a recent trade piece that should encourage reflection and concern (our emphasis):
“Today, we can not only target by the sites we think our customers frequent, we can follow them around the Web and target them based upon the other sites they actually visit. We can also target them based upon the words typed into a box, and from where those words are typed through search geo-targeting. We can also retarget searchers elsewhere on the Web. Facebook’s recent announcements take targeting to a whole new level, based upon age, location, interests, and other online activity.”
Source: “Search And Online Advertising: A Continual Evolution.” Ellen Siminoff. Search Insider. November 16, 2007
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The search engines must review their policies accepting mortgage and financial ads related to consumer credit. Companies such as Interactive Corp.–which own both a search engine and a financial services company (in this case Ask and LendingTree.com)–also must re-examine how they conduct their business promoting mortgages and other credit. Itâ€™s all too easy for search engines to say, we just are selling the ads. But the financial sector, notes clickz, accounts for around 17% of the online ad market. There is a national tragedy here for many Americans, and the online ad industry has to own up to its role. Search engines need to do a better job investigating these companies to make sure they are offering financial services that are fair and not morally usurious. Google, Yahoo, AOL, MSN and major online platformsâ€“especially those that allowed such ads to runâ€“ should also support national legislation aiding those Americans who now find themselves facing eviction. The online ad industry should voluntarily create a bail-out fund as well, returning some of its profits it earned.
Where is the moral leadership in the online ad industry? Which CEO at what search engine, ad industry trade group, or online financial marketer will stand-up and say: we must do better.
PS: It’s worth reading clickz’s Anna Maria Virzi’s piece published today on “What Does the Mortgage Meltdown Mean for Online Advertising?” Especially the last few grafs.
PPS: Here’s a perceptive analysis from Feb. 2007 on the role of Google, Yahoo!, etc and online mortgage ads [excerpt]: “As you are aware, Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO) have cashed in big time from the mortgage boom. Direct lenders, conventional banks and lead aggregators like Lending Tree, Nextag and LowerMyBills.com have all paid top dollar to drive online traffic to their site. Keywords like “mortgage” and “refinance” have gone for as high as $20 to $30 per click during peak times…Mortgage companies…have all been heavy contributors to Google’s coffers. Yahoo too, but not as much as Google.”