Will the Interactive Advertising Bureau `Mess-up’ Branding Online By Opposing Privacy Safeguards?

The IAB appears to have engaged in a Congressional game of deception today, warning Congress that legislation designed to protect privacy and digital marketing abuses would “curtail consumer choice and hinder the growth of advertising that is proving one of the Internet’s economic underpinnings.” The IAB lobbying group used the same, tired, old refrain as it sought to protect its special interests from having to act responsibly. If Congress protected consumers with online marketing safeguards, warned IAB, it would threaten the nature of the Internet itself. Dave Morgan, representing the IAB (and with the behavioral targeting company Tacoda) told a House subcommittee that “there is always a risk that legislation that governs complicated technology could result in limiting and/or stifling innovation. We want to ensure that the availability of free content online continues to grow and that consumers receive the richest, most relevant internet experience, without unduly burdening the advertising engine that makes these websites run.” The IAB’s new president Randall Rothenberg said that interactive advertising was the “primary means of support for cost-free, rich Internet content, as well as free access to unparalleled products and services. Such advertising has lowered barriers to market entry, enabling new businesses, both small and large, to thrive.”

The ad industry always plays the content card when it engages in self-protection. But the IAB’s leaders are doing a disservice to their industry. No one is saying that there can’t be interactive advertising. What is being said is that there have to be safeguards to ensure it’s done responsibly. There is going to be a growing movement to rein-in the abuses emerging. If the IAB was truly interested in the public, it would get in front of the issue. Instead, they are hiding behind the content the American public actually pays for (through higher prices to cover marketing, and now with unprecedented violations of personal privacy, data collection and more).

Unless the IAB, its members, and the ad industry as a whole begins to honestly address what is being put in place and support meaningful safeguards, marketing in the digital era will increasingly be distrusted. Where are the ad industry leaders who place the interests of the public before more narrow concerns about market share, brand engagement, and `closing’ the `conversion’ loop?

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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