7 Musts for Online Behavioral Advertising

As I noted in last month’s column, consumer trust is vital to the work we do as marketers. Without that trust, our industry would cease to exist. So, maintaining that trust should be central in all of our work. More effective and relevant advertising based on consumers’ interests and preferences is the goal. This brings immense value to both the business and the consumer. However, we must make sure that this work is done in a secure and transparent manner.

Responsible online behavioral advertising (OBA) is a powerful tool that enables marketers to optimize the relevance of their messaging. OBA refers to the collection and use of information about online activities and Web viewing behaviors across non-affiliate websites to deliver customized ads.  In a nutshell, OBA allows companies to match ads to consumers’ interests at the right time and through the right channels.  As behavioral advertising continues to fuel rich online content choices for consumers without added costs, the focus on OBA and interest-based advertising grows in importance, as well.

Understanding and implementing OBA best practices that balance the needs of both consumers and business, while also building consumer trust in the online marketplace, is a critical, but complex task. To that end, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and leading marketing and advertising industry associations that comprise the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA)—including the American Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB) —initiated a comprehensive, self-regulatory effort to develop and implement consumer-friendly principles and enforce OBA standards.

One way they’re doing so is through the industry-developed website AboutAds.info. Marketers can visit the site to find detailed information about the DAA’s work. This resource is intended to outline the steps marketers should take to comply with the DMA’s OBA guidelines, self-regulatory principles, and traditional privacy protections. It also provides information to help marketers determine whether their organization is a first-party publisher, a third-party serving ads, a service provider, or possibly all three.

DMA’s guidelines on OBA underscore the principles set forth by DMA, the Better Business Bureau, and other advertising organizations and aim to answer the Federal Trade Commission’s calls provide transparency, knowledge, and choice for consumers when they receive interest-based ads, regardless of the platform, website, or device they are viewing the ads on.

Here, in seven basic steps, is a quick look at DMA’s guidelines regarding OBA:

  1. Publish a privacy policy and abide by it—especially  regarding your OBA practices and policies
  2. Provide an enhanced notice link to consumers and honor their choices for OBA
  3. Ensure reasonable security and limited data retention for such data
  4. Offer notice and choice for material changes to your privacy policy to keep consumers informed and to be transparent regarding your practices in this area
  5. Obtain express consent (opt-in) for “sensitive” information collection through the OBA process if that is occurring
  6. Hold your company and others accountable for their practices to ensure that they’re in compliance
  7. Help educate consumers, service providers, and other businesses about these OBA best practices and compliance requirements

Xenia “Senny” Boone, Esq. serves as DMA’s in-house counsel for a range of legal issues. She also leads the organization’s efforts in compliance and best practice applications for direct marketing and fundraising.

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