Google & ad giant WPP search for scholars who can help them better target teens, mobile users, and promote pharmaceutical brands

For the second year, Google and global ad conglomerate WPP are searching for academics who will apply for their Marketing Research grants.  A look at some of the topics that are listed as “of interest” should help provide you with a better picture of the `brought to you by interactive advertising’ digital world to come:

excerpt:  Google and the WPP Group have launched the 2nd round of the research program they jointly created to improve understanding and practices in online marketing, and to better understand the relationship between online and offline media…

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

Online and offline media interaction

  • How does a brand establish a framework for assessing how much should be spent online? How much advertising should be directed at brand development versus specific click generation?
  • How does offline media affect search and vice versa?
  • What are the best models for mobile advertising?…
  • What are good guidelines for moving traditional video spots from broadcast to broadband?…
  • What is the causal relationship between brand health and search success? And what is the link between search and sales? How does search contribute to word of mouth recommendation?…
  • How do you model the consumer response to digital advertising in social networks or mobile media?…
  • How can advertisers be welcome in social networks?
  • How should online audiences and online marketing tactics be measured in emerging markets – Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America? Does mobile hold the upper hand over online in some markets?…
  • How do teens interact with digital media and what are the implications?
  • Should heavy internet users be given different treatment than light users?
  • How influential are online influencers and what categories of consumers/behaviors are most affected by them?…
  • How can pharmaceutical brands engage more effectively online? How should marketers approach creative development given the full/risk disclosure requirements?
  • What are the unique marketing and targeting opportunities for other verticals: financial services, insurance, entertainment, consumer goods, retail, etc?
  • How do consumers interact with the mobile web and what are the opportunities for retail (coupons, QR codes, etc) within mobile?…
  • What is inhibiting mobile advertising and how can it be overcome? What is the role of mobile advertising in a new marketing communication strategy?

Google PR Job Goals: “mitigate negative media coverage that might lead to unnecessary regulation”

Google has a job opening for a “Communications Manager, Multiple Focus Areas.”  Here’s an excerpt from the job description:

As a member of the Communications team based at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California you will…devise specific campaigns that establish solid contacts with journalists, face-to-face meetings with commentators and other opinion formers and develop print and web-based materials targeted at a range of different audiences, and counter misinformation and mitigate negative media coverage that might lead to unnecessary regulation or interfere with our business and ability to serve our users in other ways. Managers are very strong writers who can process complex technology issues – through blog posts, FAQs, video scripts and more – and explain them in clear language internally and externally. 

Technology Policy Institute Spins the Privacy Debate in D.C.–Group funded by Some of the Biggest Data Collection Companies

Today, the Technology Policy Institute (TPI) is holding a Hill forum on privacy and the Internet.  The group’s announcement for the event states that More privacy, however, would mean less information, less valuable advertising, and thus fewer resources available for producing new low-priced services.  It is this tradeoff that Congress needs to take into account as it considers new privacy legislation.”

What an absurd, reductionistic, and intellectually-dishonest claim.  First, this group is funded by some of the largest companies engaged in behavioral data collection and also fighting meaningful privacy policies.   That includes Google and Time Warner.  TPI’s other funders involved in some form of data collection and targeted interactive marketing include AT&T, Cisco, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and Verizon.  Rep. Cliff Stearns, the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on the Communications, Technology, and the Internet is speaking at the event: that committee is currently drafting privacy legislation to protect consumers.  Panel speakers include TPI supporters Google and Comcast.  The lone privacy group on the panel, CDT, is funded by Google and others.  One academic on the panel also works for a high-tech consulting company.  The other panel academic has done fine work on social networks and privacy.

What makes TPI’s posturing absurd, beyond its funding conflicts, is the current economic crisis.  Consumer privacy laws are required to ensure that our financial, health and other personal transactions online are conducted in a responsible manner.  Anyone–or group–who believes that we can’t have both privacy and a robust online marketplace is out of touch.

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 to EU: Protecting Privacy and Regulating Behavioral Targeting Could Threaten the Economy [Annals of Hypocrisy and Digital Chicken Licken Scare Tactics]

It’s both silly and disingenuous when companies tell policymakers, as they regularly do, that if they act to protect consumers it would undermine a country’s economic status.   Both that’s what Google’s chief privacy official appears to have told top European Union officials responsible for privacy and consumer protection last month.  At the Interactive Advertising Bureau/EU annual conference, Peter Fleisher, Google’s Global Privacy Counsel [my bold], “underlined the economic importance of web 2.0. Targeted advertising does not only affect online platforms but also advertisers themselves and the broader economic ecosystem. He urged the Commission to consider the wider economic repercussions before imposing any regulation on behavioural advertising.

Meanwhile, Microsoft continued its digital doublespeak efforts, telling some it supported privacy legislation while it also simultaneously worked on ineffective self-regulatory schemes.   At the IAB EU event, Peter Cullen, Chief Privacy Strategist at Microsoft “explained [to EU officials] the many benefits consumers get from online advertising as it finances a variety of free services available to them. Mr Cullen warned that policy initiatives must not exacerbate the problem and that a balance of self regulation, policy making and industry unity was required.”

The failure to regulate the economy has brought havoc and suffering for many millions of people throughout the world.  Google and Microsoft, as digital leaders, should be acting responsibly and support meaningful legislation that protects and empowers citizens and consumers.  The economy (and civil society) will be even healthier when it is governed by policies that ensure individuals comprehend and control the digital data collection and targeting system that is now unleashed throughout the world.

Progress & Freedom Foundation Comes to Aid of its Data-Collecting Backers (Using a `save the newspapers’ as a ploy to permit violations of consumer privacy protection!)

This report from on the Progress and Freedom Foundation’s “Congressional” briefing illustrates how desperate some online marketers are that a growing number of bi-partisan congressional leaders want to protect consumer privacy.  So it’s not surprising that some groups that are actually financially supported by the biggest online marketing data collectors in the world would hold a Hill event to help out the friends who pay their bills.

It should have been noted in Ken Corbin’s that Google, Microsoft, Time Warner (AOL), News Corp. (MySpace) financially back the Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF).  Other behavioral data targeting `want to be’s’ who monopolize U.S. online and other platforms are also backers:  AT&T, Comcast, NBC, Disney/ABC, Viacom/MTV/Nick, etc. For a list, see here.

PFF and some of its allies deliberately distort the critique of consumer and privacy groups.  We are not opposed to online marketing and also understand and support its revenue role for online publishing.  But many of us do oppose as unfair to consumers a stealth-like data collection, profiling and ubiquitous tracking system that targets people online.  One would suppose that as a sort of quasi-libertarian organization, PFF would support individual rights.  But given all the financial support PFF gets from the major online data collectors, how the group addresses the consumer privacy issue must be viewed under the `special interests pays the bills’ lens.

PFF and its allies are playing the ‘save the newspaper’ card in their desperate attempt to undermine the call for lawmakers to protect consumer privacy.  Newspapers and online publishers should be in the forefront of supporting reader/user privacy; it enhances, not conflicts, with the First Amendment in the digital era.  Finally, PFF’s positions on media issues over the years has actually contributed to the present crisis where journalism is on the endangered species list.  This is a group that has worked to dismantle the FCC, eliminate rules designed to foster diverse media ownership, and undermine network neutrality.

PS:  The article quotes from Prof. Howard Beales of George Washington University (and a fCV,ormer Bush FTC official with oversight on privacy).  Prof. Beales was on the PFF panel.  Prof. Beales, according to his CV has served as a consultant to AOL and others (including  Primerica and the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America).  Time Warner, which owns AOL, is a PFF financial backer.  All this should have been noted in the press coverage.

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]

The Growing Role of Advertising in Online Video (and a Pitch by Google for Greater Ad into Content Integration)

As advertisers continue to exert greater influence in online programming content (and as we prepare for what will eventually be a digital version of the 1950’s Quiz show scandals), we are tracking this trend.  Here is an excerpt from Screenplays magazine on a recent Internet “upfront” conference held by ad company Digitas:  Across the board the message was that advertisers aren’t interested in backing web content without having access to precisely the right performance data…Measuring engagement…is a big component of tracking ROI…Carls Jr. recently rolled out an online video campaign with eight YouTube stars, said Alex Levy, director of Branded Entertainment at Google.  “Brands increasingly have an appetite for web content and the DVR has made everything old new again.  We have to keep figuring out how to integrate into the content itself, she said.

New York Web Confab Reveals Hurdles Agencies Have Set for Video Ad Metrics.  Screenplays.  June 9, 2009

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…”