An alliance of the country’s leading advertising industry trade associations today announced the creation of a new framework for self-regulation regarding the practice of online behavioural advertising (OBA).
Marketers using OBA track consumers’ web browsing activity to serve up ads relevant to them.
Although the new framework will be coordinated by IAB Canada, it covers what the organization’s president, Paula Gignac, described as the entire “advertising ecosystem.”
It is supported by industry groups including Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA), the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA), the Canadian Media Directors’ Council (CMDC) and L’Association des agences de publicité du Québec (AAPQ), and becomes part of each organization’s code of conduct.
Two years in development, the new framework is the result of regular submissions, discussion, research and status updates to The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC).
The OBA framework is built around four components:
Providing consumers with immediate notice when a website they are visiting is using OBA. This will be achieved via the use of a visual icon – a blue triangle with a letter “i” inside – placed either inside the ad itself or in another prominent area on the website. The goal, said Gignac, is for the icon to become as instantly recognizable as the recycling icon.
Providing consumers with one-click access to educational information about OBA, enabling them to understand the practice; how and when their privacy is protected within various targeted advertising processes; and how to protect themselves in internet areas that represent security risks to their privacy.
While consumers already have the ability to control cookies by changing browser settings – effectively determining whether an individual website, ad network or other third party service can collect and record information about their web surfing habits and interactions with online ads – the new self-regulatory framework will simplify the process by providing one-click access to a full opt-out of OBA. While some online ad networks and publishers already provide this service, the new framework will extend this practice across the entire Canadian online industry.
Ensuring that consumers’ opt-out preferences are retained over the long term, as well as an independent consumer complaint mechanism developed in consultation with ASC.
OBA currently accounts for between 2% and 10% of online advertising in Canada, and its use varies significantly between advertisers, said Gignac.
“One advertiser could be doing nothing but interest-based advertising, because they say ‘I’m an airline and I really only want [my ads] to appear to people who have visited travel sites in the past 10 days. Those are the people that are my best prospects,’ ” said Gignac. Other categories, such as packaged goods, are not as reliant on OBA, she said.
A similar framework currently exists in the U.S. – where it is administered by a group of industry associations operating under the name the Digital Advertising Alliance – and is currently being rolled out throughout Europe and Australia.
Some Canadian ads being displayed by U.S. parented publishers such as Yahoo and Microsoft are already using the visual icon, with Gignac expecting the Canadian ad industry to achieve full compliance within six months.
According to Gignac, industry research has proven that consumers are more receptive to relevant online ads as opposed to ads offering that day’s hottest product (an iPad2, etc.) that pop up throughout the browsing experience.
“If you’re someone with a family, you don’t necessarily want to see the ad for the sports car,” said Gignac. “Everybody wants to see the kind of advertising that’s a little more targeted to them.”
A July study by Harris Interactive in the U.S. also found that more than half (51%) of internet users would be more inclined to click on ads recognizing the presence of behavioural advertising and offering an opt out mechanism, while 55% indicated that they would do more business with an advertiser or publisher if they gave them the ability to opt out.
“The more that you can help educate people as to the process, and allow them to make the decision, most of the time they don’t opt out because they are understanding it,” said Gignac.