Ad Exchanges, Real-Time Auctioning of Users and Privacy: “our ability to target across many dimensions”

Last week, CDD, USPIRG and World Privacy Forum filed a complaint with the FTC asking it to protect the privacy of U.S. consumers.   Over the last two years, the growth of the data collection, tracking, analysis and targeting industry online–including the real-time auctioning off a consumer based on sets of their data–raises many concerns.  This blog will be covering the field, as CDD works to encourage the FTC and the EU to address the issue.  For now, it’s always useful to see what people from the online ad business say about these practices. In OMMA magazine, here are some excerpts from an article on the topic.

“We are definitely seeing the most exciting things for us in display in our ability to target across many dimensions,” says David Cohen, U.S. director of digital communications at Universal McCann. “Whether that is behavioral targeting or third-party data or our own platform – that is where we are seeing the most excitement – in targetability.” …“If you are an owner of display advertising, this is a great time to be in the marketplace,” says Dave Zinman, vice president and general manager of display advertising at Yahoo, which delivered 521 billion ad impressions in 2009… A new alphabet soup of suppliers and technologies emerged last year that promised at long last to apply better science to the art of display. Data providers like BlueKai or Media6Degrees helped marketers find the right audiences amidst the endless inventory of the Web. Much hope is circulating around real-time bidding (RTB) at ad-exchange engines like PubMatic, Yahoo’s RightMedia and The Rubicon Project. In these models, user data combines with real-time analysis of available inventory so an advertiser can buy individual impressions across a wide array of sites. Your ad appears only when just the right person hits a page… agencies have jumped on board with their own demand-side platforms (dsps) that buy inventory on the exchanges and networks along with third-party data in order to create their own audiences for clients…At the No. 2 seller of display, Fox, Mark Papia, senior vice president of the Fox Audience Network, is as enthused as anyone about the prospects for laser-targeting through the technologies and data layers that have been assembled over the last year. With 158 million uniques combined with data from Fox and 800 other publishing partners, he believes FAN has the scale and data to profit from next-gen display.

source:  Can Science Save the Banner?  Steve Smith.  OMMA.  April 2010.

A Glimpse into Google’s Ad Exchange: Account Execs are to “acquire high revenue strategic leads” while they have “mindshare”

Google is currently looking for an account executive for its Ad Exchange.  Here’s an excerpt from the posting:

As an Account Executive, you will be charged with initiating and growing partnerships with buyers for the Ad Exchange. You must be comfortable selling the value of the Ad Exchange over the phone and in person. Acquisitions representatives will acquire high revenue strategic leads, close multiple new accounts weekly, and maximize revenue performance during a partner’s first 90 days while we have the greatest mindshare…

  • Optimize new buyer performance to exceed quarterly revenue targets.
  • Drive hundreds of thousands of dollars in new 90-day revenue each quarter.

Health Privacy: Should Health Marketers Be Able to Target You without Opt-in Consent?

We think not.  Consumers should decide–in advance and fully informed–whether they should be sent ads online for health conditions.  Take a look at WedMD’s privacy policy–which like most marketers hides behind claims that the “cookie”–a digital file placed on your browser”–isn’t personally identifiable.  Here’s what it says [excerpt]:

“Even if you do not register with WebMD, we collect Non-Personal Information about your use of our Web site, special promotions and newsletters…

We collect Non-Personal Information about your use of our Web site and your use of the Web sites of selected sponsors and advertisers through the use of Cookies. Every computer that accesses a WebMD Web site is assigned a different Cookie by WebMD. The information collected by Cookies (i) helps us dynamically generate advertising and content on Web pages or in newsletters, (ii) allows us to statistically monitor how many people are using our Web site and selected sponsors’ and advertisers’ sites, (iii) how many people open our emails, and (iv) for what purposes these actions are being taken. We may use Cookie information to target certain advertisements to your browser or to determine the popularity of certain content or advertisements…Third parties under contract with WebMD may use Cookies or Web Beacons to collect Non-Personal Information about your usage of WebMD’s sites. These third parties may use this information, on our behalf, to help WebMD target our advertising on their sites within their network, and WebMD may further tailor the advertising on these third party sites based on your geographic location (zip code), gender and/or age range to the extent known by these third parties….

WebMD Health Manager tailors the information you receive on your personal Health Manager home page to reflect your interests, concerns and personal health characteristics. We attach a concept unique identifier (CUI) to every piece of information that you provide us. For example, if you complete the HealthQuotient and indicate that you have diabetes, that single piece of information is tagged with a CUI that is specific to diabetes. Every user that indicates he or she has diabetes receives this CUI tag. Each time you view your personalized Health Manager pages, this CUI tag is matched to content from WebMD about diabetes, and if our automated algorithms determine that this is likely to be an important topic to you, it will appear on your personalized pages…”

We don’t mean to single out WebMD–the entire online health and pharma marketing industry requires scrutiny from policymakers and other consumer advocates.  That’s why my CDD is asking both the FDA and FTC to conduct a privacy and consumer protection ‘exam’ of this industry.  Don’t you think such a process should be covered under the new–and much needed–national health care plan!