Nuts & Bolts: Eye on Privacy
During the past few months, a great deal of attention has been paid to the issue of online behavioral advertising (OBA). It’s been driven mostly by large companies in the Internet advertising space and trade associations responding to a set of principles proposed by the Federal Trade Commission late last year and proposed legislation in New York and Connecticut.
Most of the responses from trade groups and Internet advertisers to these regulatory/legislative initiatives focus on self-regulatory regimes that are in place to balance the privacy interests of consumers with the business models that make much of the content we enjoy on the Web available for free or in a heavily subsidized fashion.
But, there seems to be a gap between the industry responses and marketers’ understanding of the steps they must take to benefit from OBA. In many responses, there’s a theme of consumer education. I submit that marketer education on this topic must continue. As I once heard Pat Kachura, the Direct Marketing Association’s SVP of ethics and consumer affairs, say, “Education never stops. It’s continuous because new entrants are always coming into the market.”
To be sure, OBA is one more manifestation of the democratizing effect of the Internet. For retailers with razor-thin margins, it’s another tool that promotes competition against bigger players. For consumers, it means the same ad space is used more effectively; as Randy Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, pointed out in some of that organization’s vocal commentary about what would happen if OBA were limited by onerous regulation, “Advertising relevance will diminish, and spam will have a renaissance.”
While balancing the needs and concerns of both groups is not always easy, it’s nonetheless worth doing. Retailers are constantly challenged with soaring keyword search prices, the risks of inventory and merchandising, and the buffeting economy. For consumers, too, saving money on products and services, learning about new products and services, driving less to get them, and enjoying advertising-subsidized content are all incredibly valuable benefits.