Consumers unaware of industry self-regulatory program: survey

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Although 70% of consumers are aware of online behavioral advertising (OBA), only 5% recognize the Digital Advertising Alliance's “Advertising Option” icon, according to a study from online security firm TRUSTe.

“Overall, [consumers] don't think the Internet is a well-regulated place,” said Fran Maier, president and executive chair of the board at TRUSTe, at a July 25 New York event revealing the survey's results. More than half (52%) of respondents said they believe their personally identifiable information (PII) is attached to online tracking, and 36% said they are unsure.

Despite 42% of consumers saying they would “definitely” or “probably” consent to online behavioral tracking for security and fraud protection, only 15% said they would do so in exchange for more relevant ads. Nearly one-third (32%) of respondents said that more than one-quarter of the ads served to them are relevant to their wants or needs, while 9% said more than half of the ads are relevant. Fifty-one percent of respondents said they are more likely to click on an ad if it lets them opt-out of OBA.

The survey also found that only 8% of consumers view OBA favorably. More than half (54%) said they do not like OBA, and 38% said they are neutral, although favorability varied with the type of data marketers use to target ads. Eleven percent viewed OBA favorably if their PII is being collected, but that number rose to 22% when consumers were told their PII was not being collected.

Maier said 35% of consumers surveyed were familiar with the term “online behavioral advertising,” versus the 65% who recognized the term “interest-based advertising.” She said the difference is an opportunity for the industry.

“Interest-based advertising, if explained properly as a term, will be accepted by consumers,” said Maier.

Stephen Kline, senior counsel for privacy and regulatory matters at Omnicom Media Group, said the survey “shows that we have a lot more work to do” to educate consumers about the industry's efforts to guard privacy when serving ads. The industry is “never going to get to 100% [awareness],” but it needs to promote its work nonetheless.

“Only if the entire industry participates in the self-regulatory program can it truly work,” said Genie Barton, director of the online Internet-based advertising accountability program at the Council of Better Business Bureau. She added that the advertising industry “has been handed on a platter a workable program [in the DAA's self-regulatory program],” but that if it doesn't adopt and promote its efforts, regulation will be passed nonetheless.

The study was based on an online survey of 1,004 adult consumers conducted by research company Harris Interactive between May 26 and June 2.

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