Neuromarketing firm, backed by Nielsen, brings in expert on “attention, language…reading development”

Neurofocus–the global neuromarketing firm backed by Nielsen–has added to its staff Dr. Steven Miller [“A neuropsychologist with expertise in the assessment and treatment of problems in attention, language, or reading development, Dr. Miller has extensive experience using a variety of behavioral and brain-imaging methodologies (e.g., EEG, MEG and fMRI).”]

Here’s how Nielsen explains what Neurofocus can do for clients, such as brands:

Understand consumers’ subconscious responses to messages with brainwave analysis and increase the effectiveness of marketing and branding content.

Influencing the unfiltered feelings locked in the subconscious and protected by thousands of years of evolutionary defenses has been the bane – and the bread and butter – of advertisers and market researchers since the beginning of the media age. The Nielsen Company and NeuroFocus, Inc. offer neuroscience-based products, services and metrics in retail, consumer packaged goods, television, film and emerging media. Using established electroencephalographic (EEG) techniques to measure degrees of attention, memory retention and emotional engagement, neurological testing provides precise, projectable insights into consumer behavior along with recommendations for increasing message effectiveness.

With NeuroFocus, Nielsen supports an array of marketing challenges:

Understanding Your Audience By addressing consumer responses in the subconscious, where purchase intent is formed, determine precisely how consumers react to a message.

Our new Journal of Adolescent Health article on the Youth Obesity Epidemic and Digital Marketing

Prof. Kathryn Montgomery and I just published an article in the Journal of Adolescent Health [JAH] on the the role interactive marketing plays in the current youth obesity epidemic.  It is part of a special JAH issue focused on the obesity issue.  It’s a very good introduction to the current digital marketing landscape, and is one of a series of reports we have done on the issue.

Network Neutrality, a Narrowed Internet and Digital TV [Attention DoJ, FTC & FCC]

It appears that the network neutrality fight now also must be focused on how new TV sets are connected to the Internet.  A narrow, closed universe, of digital lite applications are to be part of the new high definition television universe, according to Variety.  For example, new TV’s connect to a version of the Internet but haven’t been “built for full-fledged Web browsing.”   But these sets “will come pre-installed with targeted applications for specific websites, somewhat like iPhone apps.” [our emphasis]  Some 50 million people are predicted to have these Net-lite sets by 2013.

Variety explains that:  Indeed, apps are seen as the keys to success with Web-enabled TV. There are no plans for a central app store, but analysts say they wouldn’t be surprised to see one. For now manufacturers can “push” new apps onto TVs but viewers can’t add any themselves.  This puts manufacturers in the new position of deciding which sites gain access to their customers’ screens, and there is already talk that they are contemplating selling such access via revenue-sharing deals. 

The Obama Administration has been a strong supporter of network neutrality.  It should challenge this threat to competition and new threat designed to narrow the Internet.  Beyond concerns on openness and content diversity, it’s worth noting that some in the TV industry see the deliver of Internet services via TV’s a way to expand the impact of commercials and ads (since online video ad can’t be fast-forwarded or easily skipped).  These Net-enabled devices also raise important privacy and consumer protection issues.  Notes Variety, “[T]he new technology also could add power to an advertiser’s message, with consumers able to click a link and instantly learn more about a product — and with ads being better targeted based on a person’s viewing and browsing history.”

source:  Television’s killer app: New HD TVs equipped with internet connection.  Chris Morris.  Variety. August 14, 2009.

IAB Works to Undermine Obama Consumer Protection Plan [On its Exec. Board includes Google, Time Warner, Disney, NYT, CBS, WPP]

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) signed a July 20, 2009 letter sent to Rep. Barney Frank of the House Committee on Financial Services raising questions–and really attempting to undermine–the Obama Administration’s proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency.  Others signing the letter included the Business Roundtable, Consumers Bankers Association, Consumer Data Industry Association, Financial Services Roundtable, the Real Estate Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  The IAB wasn’t the only ad lobby group signing the letter; so did the 4A’s and the DMA.  My colleagues in the consumer community view the letter as an attempt to derail the bill [the letter, which asks for a delay on the bill, says that “there will be significant dangerous, unintended consequences if the legislation is enacted in its current form.”]

Why would the IAB be concerned about the creation of a new powerful consumer financial watchdog?  It’s because their members work with companies engaged in digitally-related financial products–including mortgages, loans, credit cards, and so-called lead generation services.  The IAB benefits from the hundreds of millions spent year year on interactive ads for financially-related services (Among the top 15 digital advertisers in 2008 were Scottrade,, TD Ameritrade Holding Co, Bank of America, FMR Corp, Experian, etc.). The IAB is clearly afraid of having an agency that would be empowered to investigate how online marketers sell and promote a wide range of financial products online.

We do wonder whether IAB board members that support the Obama Administration’s proposal (which is widely backed by consumer groups) understand the implications of the position it has taken.  Personally, I believe the creation of the new agency is critically important.  We must ensure that American consumers are never again victims when buying financial products.  Given that most of us will be learning about and purchasing financial services online, the proposed new agency will have to address how a number of IAB’s members engage in digitally-delivered financial services.

Google’s “Health Vertical” Division and the YouTube `Branded’ Channel for Obesity-related Medical Product

Google is in, as we know, the interactive marketing of health products and medical information.  Here’s an excerpt from Advertising Age on one of Google’s new YouTube related efforts.  We are deeply concerned about the role of interactive health marketing, including the techniques used to present information, influence consumer behavior, and collect user data.

Excerpt: In the video, Viki, a middle-age blonde, tears up recounting her moment of truth: A couple of years ago she was so obese that she could not chase after her toddler to keep him from running into the street…If this sounds like a setup for a weight-loss ad, that’s because it is. But not for a diet shake, pill or plan. The video is for Ethicon Endo-Surgery’s Realize adjustable gastric band — a device placed around the stomach that restricts food intake. The video is on Realize Band’s branded YouTube channel.

Video is such a powerful medium for people who are having this type of surgery,” said Mary Ann Belliveau, managing director of Google Health Vertical. “What the channel does is give the patients a home for this, so they can get a more thorough experience, specifically with the company and the brand.”…The Realize band’s YouTube channel went live June 20 and already has received nearly 8,000 channel views. Ethicon also has a branded site for the band, where patients can learn more about the surgery and join the device’s online support program. In the video on YouTube, Viki describes her own experience with the Realize band. On the Realize website, consumers can read Viki’s diary, as well as those of other patients. Complementing Viki’s story on YouTube, there is a video simulating implantation of the band, and another explaining how to financially prepare for the surgery, which costs $17,000-$26,000 on average…”

source:  Gastric-Band Maker Reaches Out with YouTube Channel.  Marissa Miley.  Ad Age.  July 6, 2009 [sub required]

Online Consumers Require Real Privacy Safeguards, Not the Digital Fox [AAAA, ANA, BBB, DMA & IAB] in Charge of the Data Hen House

The self-regulatory proposals released today [2 July 2009]  by five marketing industry trade and lobby groups are way too little and far too late. This move by the online ad industry is an attempt, of course, to quell the growing bi-partisan calls in Congress to enact meaningful digital privacy and consumer protection laws. It’s also designed to assuage a reawakened Federal Trade Commission–whose new chair, Jon Leibowitz, recently appointed one the country’s most distinguished consumer advocates and legal scholars to direct its Bureau of Consumer Protection (David Vladeck). The principles are inadequate, even beyond their self-regulatory approach that condones, in effect, the “corporate fox guarding the digital data henhouse.” Effective government regulation is required to protect consumers. We should have learned a painful lesson by now with the failure of the financial industry to oversee itself. The reckless activities of the financial sector—made possible by a deregulatory, hands-off government policy–directly led to the current financial catastrophe. As more of our transactions and daily activities are conducted online, including those involving financial and health issues–through PCs, mobile phones, social networks, and the like–it is critical that the first principle be to ensure the basic protection of consumer privacy. Self-dealing “principles” concocted by online marketers simply won’t provide the level of protection consumers really require.

The industry appears to have embraced a definition of behavioral targeting and profiling that is at odds with how the practice actually works. Before any data is collected from consumers, they need to be candidly informed about the process–such as the creation and evolution of their profile; how tracking and data gathering occurs site to site; what data can be added to their profile from outside databases; the role that data targeting plays on so-called first-party websites, etc. In addition, the highest possible consumer safeguards are necessary when financial and health data are involved. Under the loosey-goosey trade industry principles, however, only “certain health and financial data” are to be treated as a “sensitive” category. This would permit widespread data collection involving personal information regarding our health and financial concerns. The new principles, moreover, fail to protect the privacy of teenagers; nor do they seriously address children’s privacy. (I was one of the two people that led the campaign to enact the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act).

The failure to develop adequate safeguards for sensitive consumer information illustrates, I believe, the inability of the ad marketing groups to seriously address online privacy. The so-called “notice and choice” approach embraced by the industry has failed. More links to better-written privacy statements don’t address the central problem: the collection of more and more user data for profiling and targeting purposes. There needs to be quick Congressional action placing limits on the collection, use and retention of consumer data; opt-in control over profile information; and the creation of a meaningful sensitive data category. Consumer and privacy groups intend to work with Congress to ensure that individuals don’t face additional losses due to unfair online marketing practices.

[press statement by the Center for Digital Democracy]

Google’s YouTube Pushes Carls Jr. Burgers. 53 grams of fat/870 calories/It’s #1 Video Ad for the Week

Take a look at this YouTube branded ad campaign for Carls Jr.  Look at the nutrition information.  The ad, says Visible Measures, is at the “number one spot on the Top Ad Campaigns chart this week showcases vloggers from the Nigahiga comedy group chomping down for Carl’s Jr.’s How To Eat A Burger campaign, which features the Portobello Mushroom Burger. The campaign grabbed a record-breaking 3.3+ million views…”

Google’s New YouTube Policy: Expanded Data Collection & Privacy

On May 6 2008, YouTube announced that “Starting today, signing up for YouTube means signing up for a Google Account that gives you access to YouTube, as well as other Google services such as iGoogle, Reader and Docs…So why are we doing this? We feel that by jointly connecting accounts, you can take greater advantage of our services both on YouTube and on Google, especially as we start to roll out new features in the future that will be powered by Google technology.”

But as search engine online guide explains it [excerpt]:

One of the advantages for Google once users sign up with a Google account would be a significantly better targeting for its advertising both in and outside YouTube (Google Docs, AdSense advertising, Google News and Finance, etc.) thanks to the personal information gathered on the search giant’s servers. This is particularly important in light of the recent introduction of behavioral targeting for AdSense, which keeps track of the user’s interests to try and display to him or her messages that are most likely to attract his or her attention…Like many other popular search engines, Google collects search data for its users for the previous 9 months in order to achieve better targeting, with governments — particularly the EU court — pushing for such a limit to be reduced to 6 months or less. However, there is no restriction for the gathering of non-search related data including YouTube and Gmail among others.

IAB UK’s “Good Practice Principles” on Behavioural Targeting: Alice in Wonderland Meets Online Data Collection

Last week in Brussels at a EU Consumers Summit, Google and other interactive ad companies pointed to the new Interactive Advertising Bureau/UK “Good Practice Principles for online behavioural advertising” as a model for meaningful self-regulation.  The companies that have endorsed the principles include  AOL/Platform A, AudienceScience, Google, Microsoft Advertising, NebuAd, Phorm, Specific Media, Yahoo! SARL, and Wunderloop.   The message sent to EU regulators was, in essence, don’t really worry about threats to privacy from online profiling and behavioural targeting.  But a review of the Principles suggest that there is a serious lack of “truth in advertising” when it comes to being truly candid about data collection and interactive marketing.  These Principles are insufficient–and are really a political attempt to foreclose on meaningful consumer policy safeguards.

Indeed, when one examines the new online “consumer guide” which accompanies the Principles,  one has a kind of Alice in Wonderland moment.  That’s because instead of being candid about the real purpose of behavioral advertising–and the system of interactive marketing it is a part of–the IAB paints an unreal and deliberately cheery picture where data collection, profiling, tracking, and targeting are just harmless techniques designed to give you a better Internet experience.   UK consumers–and policymakers–deserve something more forthright.

First, the IAB conveniently ignores the context in which behavioural targeting is just one data collection technique.  As they know, online marketers are creating what they term a “media and marketing ecosystem.”  A truly honest “Good Practice Principles” would address all the principal ways online marketers target consumers.  That would include, as IAB/UK knows well, such approaches as social media marketing, in-game targeting, online video, neuromarketing, engagement, etc.  A real code would address issues related to the use of behavioural data targeting and other techniques when used for such areas as finance (mortgages, loans, credit cards); health products; and targeting adolescents.

The IAB/UK also fails to reconcile how it describes behavioural targeting to its members and what it says to consumers and policymakers.  For example, the group’s glossary defines behavioural targeting as:  “A form of online marketing that uses advertising technology to target web users based on their previous behaviour. Advertising creative and content can be tailored to be of more relevance to a particular user by capturing their previous decision making behaviour (eg: filling out preferences or visiting certain areas of a site frequently) and looking for patterns.“  But its new “Good Practice” consumer guide says that “Online behavioural advertising is a way of serving advertisements on the websites you visit and making them more relevant to you and your interests. Shared interests are grouped together based upon previous web browsing activity and web users are then served advertising which matches their shared interests. In this way, advertising can be made as relevant and useful as possible.”

Incredibly, the IAB/UK claims that “the information used for targeting adverts is not personal, in that it does not identify you – the user – in the real world. Data about your browsing activity is collected and analysed anonymously.”  Such an argument flies in the face of what the signatories of the “Good Practice Principles” really tell their online ad customers.  For example, Yahoo in the UK explains that its “acclaimed behavioural targeting tool allows advertisers to deliver specific targeted ads to consumers at the point of purchase.”  Yahoo has used behavioural targeting in the UK to help sell mortgages and other financial products.  Microsoft’s UK Ad Solutions tells customers it can provide a variety of behavioural targeting tools so it “can deliver messaging to the people who are actively looking to engage with what you’re offering…With Re-messaging we can narrow our audience by finding the people who have already visited you. It means we can ensure they always stay in touch and help create continual engagement with your brand…Profile Targeting can help you find the people you’re looking for by who they are, where they are and when you want to be seen by them.”  Time Warner’s Platform A/AOL says Through our Behavioural Network, we can target your most valuable visitors across our network, earning you additional revenues, or simply fulfil your own campaign obligations.  By establishing certain user traits or demographics within your audience, we are able to target those individuals with the most relevant advertising (tied into their common characteristics), or simply reach those same users in a different environment.”  Or Audience Science’s UK office that explains “While other behavioural targeting technologies simply track page visits, the AudienceScience platform analyzes multiple indicators of intent:

•  Which pages and sections they have visited

•  What static and dynamic content they have read

•  What they say about themselves in registration data

•  Which search terms they use

•  What IP data indicates about them, including geography, SIC code, Fortune 500 rank, specific Internet domains,   and more

Because AudienceScience processes so many indicators of intent, it enables you to create precisely targeted audience segments for advertisers.”  And Google, which knows that the UK is “arguably the most advanced online marketplace in the world” has carefully explained to its UK customers all the data they collect and make available for powerful online targeting.

The Notice, Choice and Education “Good Practice” scheme relies on an ineffective opt-out.  Instead of real disclosure and consumer/citizen control, we have a band-aid approach to privacy online.  The IAB also resorts to a disingenuous scare tactic when it suggests that without online marketing, the ability of the Internet to provide “content online for free” would be harmed.  No one has said there shouldn’t be advertising–what’s been said is that it must be done in a way which respects privacy, the citizen, and the consumer.   Clearly, the new IAB/UK code isn’t a model that can be relied on to protect the public.  UK regulators must play a more proactive role to ensure privacy and consumer welfare online is meaningfully protected.

UK Online Ad Lobby Group: “behavioural targeting is going to be the future of the internet.” [Annals of Behavioral Targeting]

The debate over behavioural targeting, profiling and interactive advertising is heating up in the European Union.  We just spoke at a EU event on the topic.  More later on that meeting (which featured Google, Microsoft, Nokia and others, all wearing their Brussels best).  Google and others pointed to a new code on behavioural targeting created by the UK’s Interactive Ad Bureau, which they suggest is a model (and is designed to foreclose on real privacy safeguards).  I will be writing about this code in the next post.  But here’s what the chairman of the IAB UK, Richard Eyre, said about protecting privacy online and the Internet’s future [via Brand Republic.  March 31, 2009]. Excerpts:

Richard Eyre, chairman of the Internet Advertising Bureau, has said he accepts the European Union’s decision to investigate behavioural targeting as “logical” but hopes that the current self-regulatory process “will satisfy everyone”.

Eyre was responding to the EU’s decision to investigate behavioural targeting by online advertisers, in a move that could result in legislation that overrides the code recently introduced by the IAB with the support of Ofcom and search giants Google and Microsoft…Eyre said that he understood that the EU had to have a point of view on the issue because behavioural targeting is a new tool about which the general public is still forming its opinion. However he hopes the self-regulatory code on behavioural targeting recently introduced by the IAB will satisfy everyone. Eyre said: “It is very easy to dismiss the issues as an invasion of privacy but the fact is that behavioural targeting is going to be the future of the internet.”Eyre told ISBA’s annual conference recently that behavioural targeting would be a “game-changer” for advertisers.
PS:  As for Microsoft’s position on privacy, here’s an excerpt from a March 5, 2009 New Media Age story:  “Zuzanna Gierlinska, head of Microsoft Media Network, said, “It’s better that regulation comes from within the market rather than from government, which might not be fully aware of how behavioural targeting works.”  source:  “Industry unites to defend trust in online advertising.”   Suzanne Bearne.