Digital Ad Lobby Plan for Commerce Privacy Approach: Sideline FTC and Stronger Consumer Protection Rules

The Department of Commerce’s report on privacy has received praise from the Interactive Advertising Bureau lobbying group.  As reported by Politico,  “IAB’s Mike Zaneis [said] the Commerce Department’s new privacy report represents “a really important step in what has been a really inclusive and productive process by commerce and the administration.” Zaneis said he felt Commerce recognized (more than the FTC did) the importance of “economic growth” in recommendations about what to do next with online privacy. On the proposed Privacy Policy Office, the IAB-er further told us he felt it strikes the right balance – it is a “great idea to coordinate various stakeholders,” he said – and it creates a relationship where Commerce coordinates the rulemaking while the FTC handles enforcement. “What this has done is identify the FTC as an enforcement, not as a rulemaking or legislative, body,” he told us.

The IAB and other data collection groups are fearful of the FTC, because that agency has finally caught up to speed on the digital marketing, consumer protection and privacy issue.  Its Chairman Jon Leibowitz supports do not track (something the Commerce paper didn’t really discuss);  the Bureau of Consumer Protection head appointed by Mr. Leibowitz is a serious and skilled attorney who is concerned about consumers.  The IAB would rather have the business-interest friendly Department of Commerce be the broker of a deal that they hope will affirm the data profiling and tracking status quo.

The Obama Administration is going to have to ensure that any new multi-stake holder process provides the consumer and privacy advocates not only parity with industry, but access to resources and information so the process will be fair to consumers.  Discussions will require transparency and accountability.  The FTC should not be sidelined–although we want to see both that agency and the Commerce Department do a better job standing up to protect consumers and their privacy.

Finally, the Obama Administration must put the interests of European and Asian/Pacific consumers and citizens before the commercial concerns of U.S. online marketing companies.  The U.S. shouldn’t be a digital enabler that allows online ad companies to track and target users abroad for financial, drug, junk food and other products without serious safeguards.  A higher global standard of privacy and ethical conduct of the U.S. government is required.

Facebook to TV Business: We can boost your audience: “it’s all about making that data available”

Yesterday, Facebook pitched itself to the global commercial TV industry at MIPCOM.  Facebooks’ EMEA rep Joanna Shields touted how Facebook could help generate more viewers and greater involvement with TV programs, such as “X-Factor.”  Ms. Shields said that Facebook Places location targeting system might let its users “check in” to a program:  “…you could check into a television show and tell everyone what’s happening.  You could say I am watching this and you got to see it… It could become a very powerful marketing tool at some stage…It’s all about data, it’s all about making that data available.”  Other quotes from Ms. Shields: The voice of your fan can be amplified to a chorus, and a focus group can be the size of a country…30% of all TV viewers have admitted to being logged onto to Facebook while watching a TV show…[TV program] stories are the beginning of the conversation, and not the last word…I can see someday the ability to sign in using your Facebook ID to a show.”

Online Advertising: “Overnight” Ratings–a la TV– Come to the Internet, inc. Mobile. Facebook Endorses Nielsen’s Cross-Platform Tracking

For years, we have explained that the Internet’s future has been tied to the TV and advertising business models of the past.  So it’s not surprising that this week comScore announced that “digital overnights” are now part of its service offerings for marketers and advertisers.  In a release, they explain that its “new service features several groundbreaking enhancements for digital media planning and optimization, including the availability of digital GRP “overnights,” campaign reporting across global markets, verification of ad delivery by audience and geography, and detailed campaign analysis by creative and placement strategy…By offering views of digital performance that have long been the standard in the TV business, any buyer should be supremely confident about allocating dollars to the platform where the most valuable attention can be found.”

Nielsen also added ratings for online programming to its product offerings, as part of the move to measure and track users across all platforms, including mobile.  As its release noted:  “marketers and media companies alike will now have a simpler way to measure the combined reach of TV, the web and even mobile advertising…Nielsen will be able to provide reach, frequency and Gross Rating Point (GRP) measures for online advertising campaigns of nearly any size, running nearly anywhere on the web.  Campaign reporting will be available within just days after the launch of a campaign, providing vital delivery information in-flight to both advertisers and publishers.”   Facebook, which is partnering with Nielsen to help expand its big brand ad selling business, enthusiastically endorsed the new product:  “More and more marketers are creating integrated, cross-platform campaigns and we need a better way to measure how they perform,” said Mike Murphy, Vice President, Global Sales, Facebook. “We think creative campaigns are more effective when marketers combine TV and digital in a way that extends the big idea online and makes it social through an ongoing, two-way connection.  With their expertise, Nielsen can help marketers measure the impact of true cross-platform campaigns.”

Comcast’s Pathetic “Public Interest” Commitments to Regulators for its NBCU Deal

Comcast released a memo this morning summarizing what it will promise regulators in order to win approval of its NBCU mega-deal with GE.   It’s a laughable document that demonstrates a cable monopolist mentality.  As the country’s most powerful cable and residential broadband company, they likely feel that they don’t have to really  provide a serious array of public interest commitments.   Even though the broadcasting business is in transition, and film distribution is changing, the sale of NBCU to what is arguably the dominant TV giant isn’t on its own a meaningful public interest benefit.  Indeed, the recent history of media consolidation in the U.S. is one that has actually harmed the public–through cutbacks in news and public affairs, more tabloid programming and higher cable TV rates, for example.

Comcast’s memo today [available via here] says nothing on the key (and crucial) issue of network neutrality and online programming access.  Nor are there any  safeguards for privacy and interactive ads, meaningful concrete funding commitments for local and national news,  and support for truly diverse (non-Comcast/NBCU owned) minority programming.   Today, Comcast demonstrated it’s only fit to perhaps be allowed to operate Comedy Central.

Disney’s Bob Iger, Kids and Behavioral Tracking/Targeting: He Claims “Kids don’t care” about their Privacy

My friend the children’s TV activist Peggy Charren, back during the 1970’s and 1980’s, had a favorite expression when it came to dealing with self-serving media moguls who trampled on concerns about kids:  “I’d like to wash your mouth out with soap,” she would exclaim (given her tenacity, they knew she meant business).  Robert Iger, the head of Disney, is quoted in Reuters saying that: “If we could sell your behavior to an advertiser — I am actually pretty bullish about what technology is going to allow in terms of behavioral tracking. I think we are going to have information to sell to marketers.”

Unbelievably, Mr. Iger, when citing concerns over privacy, says that: “Kids don’t care,”…adding that when he talked to his adult children about their online privacy concerns “they can’t figure out what I’m talking about.”

Mr. Iger has just dramatically tarnished the Disney brand, by suggesting that it’s okay to engage in digital marketing and data collection to children and adolescents.  Not only is he thumbing his nose at the bipartisan Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, but the growing concern health, parenting and children’s groups have regarding youth privacy and consumer protection.  Instead of Disney being a youth industry leader when it comes to digital marketing, it appears the company is shirking what its role should be.  Peggy–I hope you still have one of those bars of soap!

Cable Giants Canoe Ventures and Your Set-top Box Data [Annals of Telling Congress One Thing, But Insiders Another]

From a November 2008 report on Canoe CEO David Verklin’s speech at the “NewTeeVee Live” conference.  Excerpts:  Canoe Ventures outlined its strategy today at the NewTeeVee Live conference in San Francisco, where David Verklin, the CEO, outlined the cable industry’s answer to the competition from online video…“Data is the new creative,” Verklin said. He said Canoe thinks the key to that data is the set-top box that’s already hooked up to the televison. That box can tell advertisers exactly how many people are watching an ad.

And this excerpt on Comcast’s data mining warehouse from a January 2009 report in Multichannel News.  Excerpt:  Comcast has sketched out plans for a gigantic database called “TV Warehouse,” able to store a full year of statistics gathered from digital set-tops in more than 16 million households nationwide, according to an industry executive familiar with the project.  TV Warehouse, envisioned as having a massive 500 Terabytes of storage, would then feed up to a database even broader in scope operated by Canoe Ventures, the advanced-advertising venture formed by Comcast and five other large MSOs.  The idea: to give advertisers an enormous set of actual viewing metrics — showing exactly what millions of cable customers watched and when — as opposed to representative samples.

Canoe CEO David Verklin has said the venture expects in the near future to provide viewing metrics for 32 million U.S. cable households, representing about 57 million set-tops.  “One of the first things we must do is bring set-top data into the marketplace and make that the currency,” Verklin said, speaking last November on a panel at the CTAM Summit.  Detailed audience measurement metrics, in Verklin’s view, are crucial to Canoe’s aims to sell interactive-TV services and deliver ads that are “addressable” to individual set-tops.

and an excerpt from an interview with Canoe’s chief technological exec Arthur Orduna.  Worth thinking about the implications:
And when a viewer does respond, or requests information, what happens?

[Orduna]:  There the local system comes into play, and so does Canoe, actually. Because whatever I click will be collected into a separate aggregation server by the MSO or the system. That information would then be sent to a centralized Canoe aggregation server, because we’d be managing all the information for that particular campaign. And then whatever would need to be done with that data, whether it would need to be presented back to the subscriber, or whether it would be compiled for fulfillment or reporting, that would be Canoe’s responsibility.

Project Canoe: Data-mining and Viewer Monitoring for Ad Targeting—-for banks, dog food, and your Cable Company

The cable TV industry’s interactive advertising consortium called Project Canoe is steadily moving ahead with plans that will harness more cable viewer data for profiling and targeting. Here’s some excerpts from a Hewlett-Packard blog:

“…Canoe’s first national go-to-market product is called Creative Versioning Platform which marries the cable industry’s ad zones with demographic databases, and this will offer national advertisers more targeted, relevant and effective advertising with commercials that run simultaneously across the national market with different messages and tags…

So who might this impact… How about consumer banking? Although there is a major consolidation in recent weeks with consumer banks, they still have specific audiences they are trying to target with their diverse banking products. Imagine Bank of America’s Private Wealth Management group only targeting household income over $150k with one specific message and another message for free checking account for households less than $75k. Or how about Purina dog food for only dog owners? Did you know that 40% of all U.S. TV households own a dog? The opportunities are endless.

Data – will be a major emphasis in Canoe’s charter…In the very near future, Canoe will have the ability to measure and monitor viewing via their set top boxes, second by second data by each box. Look familiar? That’s right, the Internet! These boxes will have in-dept and granular data for programmers and advertisers alike…Request for Information (RFI) – another basic feature with high potential…Pretty powerful stuff – high level of tracking…

T-Commerce…What could be better – you buy it during your favorite show, have it billed to your cable bill, have it shipped to your house (as the cable co. has your address) and you pay for it at the end of the month.

So who might this impact….How about credit card companies to begin with! And if the cable company offered to finance the purchases, they could create their own finance companies – similar to auto dealers. That’s called “extra income.”

source: The Changing Face of Media. Oct 6, 2008.

Privacy Issues for Interactive TV and Personalized Targeting Should Be on Congress Agenda

Deep packet inspection and other online marketing techniques are not the only privacy concerns with digital media. So are, in my opinion, the evolving world of more precisely targeted and viewer tracking television ads. Here’s an excerpt from today’s MediaDailyNews on advances in interactive television:

“… a leading developer has created an open standard that will enable advertisers and agencies to easily and seamlessly integrate any method they use to target TV viewers, and then have those ads served to specific dayparts, programming genres, geographic zones, or even individual households. The breakthrough…allows advertisers to utilize any source of data they use to define their consumer targets, and then have those ads served to any platform capable of delivering targeted TV advertising, including…broadband, as well as household-specific addressable television outlets…

…Visible World is disclosing deals with both Acxiom and Experian, two of the leading sources of data used by agencies to target consumers across media, but… the system will easily port data from virtually any source…and… is capable of serving TV ads to as “granular” a target as an advertiser can define…”

source: Addressable TV Ad Developer Hits Target, Creates Open Standard For Advertisers. Joe Mandese. MediaDailyNews. Aug 21, 2008.

Google’s new online ad-suppported animated venture:“We feel that we have recreated the mass media”

That’s the headline here–“We feel that we have recreated the mass media,” said Kim Malone Scott, director of sales and operations for AdSense in a New York Times article on Google backing a “Calvalcade of Cartoon Comedy” for online. Google is likely using its resources which can track how long users are likely to watch a video, and how they interact with a slew of interactive advertising pitches. They can measure each click too, so they can better determine what works for the commercial sell.

But, of course, the analogy to the “mass media” is what is interesting. Google is leading the way to recreate the mass media in the digital age. They are right about that. But with such an ambitious plan comes responsibility–to ensure there is funding for serious and diverse independent news, investigative reporting, and quality cultural programming. Google should also help ensure that women and people of color–now cut out of ownership in media–actually own significant parts of the new digital content landscape. And there must also be a serious privacy policy which covers broadband video as well. Google, its advertisers, and partners shouldn’t automatically know what we watch and how we respond (without our permission–and with special rules for children and adolescents).

source for quote: Google and Creator of `Family Guy’ Strike a Deal. Brooks Barnes. NYT. June 30, 2008

U Penn Prof. Joseph Turow responds to the

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.

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