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DAA debuts consumer education campaign for online behavioral advertising

The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) debuted on Jan. 20 the first phase of a multistage campaign designed to educate consumers about online behavioral advertising. McCann Worldgroup-owned MRM Worldwide‘s Salt Lake City office created the “Your Choices” campaign pro bono for the trade group.

The campaign “is in direct response” to a call from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “for more concerted outreach and education to consumers to let them know the information that’s available, the controls that are available, to them in terms of managing their privacy preferences with online behavioral advertising, or as we put it here, interest-based advertising,” said Peter Kosmala, managing director of the DAA. A consumer survey conducted last year by online security firm TRUSTe found that, while 70% of respondents said they are aware of online behavioral advertising, only 5% recognized the Advertising Option Icon.

The DAA launched the Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising in 2010 as a way to establish principles for companies who use online behavioral advertising and began to offer consumers a means to opt out of being served ads based on their online browsing behavior later in the year.

Kosmala said the DAA will launch a version of the Advertising Option Icon for mobile devices “this year” and the icon will apply to behaviorally targeted ads running within mobile browsers and mobile apps.

The campaign’s first phase features a dedicated site with videos and articles geared to inform consumers as to how online behavioral advertising works. The site also directs consumers to a landing page they can use to opt-out of online behavioral advertising. Kosmala said he expects the banner ads will roll out “within a week and over the next several months.” The ads will not be behaviorally targeted and will not feature the Advertising Option Icon, he said.

The DAA will analyze campaign performance metrics such as site visits, content interactions and referrals to the consumer choice page featuring a mechanism to opt out of online behavioral advertising, Kosmala said.

Kosmala said the campaign’s following phases “could conceivably include other efforts that involve more leveraging of social media tools and [search engine marketing and optimization]” as well as an expansion of the campaign’s website.

Throughout the campaign, the DAA refers to online behavioral advertising as interest-based advertising. The TRUSTe survey found that only 35% of respondents were familiar with the term “online behavioral advertising” versus the 65% who were familiar with the term “interest-based advertising.”

Kosmala said the DAA chose to adopt the latter term for the consumer-facing campaign because it’s “more concise and authentic” than online behavioral advertising, which he described as “policy language” with “a clinical sound to it.” The DAA is not abandoning its use of online behavioral advertising as a term, he said.

Kosmala told Direct Marketing News last June that the DAA was planning the consumer education campaign “for a fall timeframe.” Asked on Jan. 20 why the campaign was delayed, Kosmala cited a number of factors.

“As we got further into the fall and we did more testing on the campaign concept and trying to determine an optimal time to release, it just became clear that rather than get this buried in the middle of holiday time, and certainly the very real possibility that inventory would not be available at all in the biggest retail quarter of the year, that it would be a whole lot smarter to start the year fresh, to make this a real key message in how we’re beginning the next year of our program and being in a position to better secure the available inventory,” Kosmala said.

According to the DAA, more than 400 companies — including American Express, AT&T, Disney, General Motors, Kraft Foods, Microsoft and Wal-Mart — have joined the self-regulatory program since its launch. The trade group said the Advertising Option Icon is served alongside more than 900 billion ad impressions per month and the Aboutads.info site receives more than 60,000 unique visitors per week.

While it has cooled recently, the tracking of consumers online was a hot topic in Washington D.C. last year, spurred by a December 2010 report from the FTC that called for a universal Do Not Track mechanism. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) each introduced bills that would create mechanisms to prevent online tracking.

FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said in November that the government agency would issue a final version of the December 2010 online privacy report “in the coming months.” The Commerce Department is also working on an online privacy report that Leibowitz said would be “complementary” to the FTC’s report. Kosmala said that he expects the reports to be released “any day.”

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