IAB launches educational push

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is conducting its first consumer-focused campaign to educate consumers about online privacy. The initiative, called “Privacy Matters,” will run throughout 2010 to teach consumers how to use privacy tools on the Web. It features display ads and an educational Web site designed by WPP’s Schematic, a digital agency.

“Digital media has done extraordinarily well in transforming how we all experience entertainment and information, but we as an industry haven’t done extremely well to communicate to consumers in plain English how privacy works,” said David Doty, SVP of thought leadership and marketing at the IAB.

The online effort consists of a series of playful banner ads with taglines such as “Advertising is creepy,” spelled out in vintage Hitchcock-style typeface.

“We are taking a risk with this messaging,” said Doty. “We know that privacy is concerning people, and we want to be able to talk about it in a way that is action-based and not fear-based.”

The effort stems from IAB’s ongoing push for industry self-regulation in regards to online privacy matters. In July, the IAB joined a number of other trade associations to release the “Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising” to promote self-regulation. One principle is to educate consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission and Congress have considered behavioral legislation since 2007. 

“We recognize that the regulators and legislators are concerned about consumer privacy, and so are we,” said Doty. “We believe that we need to educate consumers on how to protect their privacy online and about the tools that they can use to do so. We believe that we should be good citizens.”

Much of the online media industry is supporting the effort. IAB members including Google, Facebook, CBS Interactive and The New York Times Co. have donated impressions. The IAB members donated 500 million impressions, on par with a typical consumer campaign, said Doty.

“The fact that they are all doing this pro bono shows that the industry is committed to addressing consumers about privacy and helping them understand privacy tools,” Doty said.

Internet-based companies are also launching their own initiatives to help consumers guard private data.

For one, Yahoo launched a beta version of Ad Interest Manager, a tool that helps consumers control their online personal data. The company joins Google and AOL, which have their own online privacy tools, with the release.

By using the platform, Yahoo visitors can see a summary of their online activity and decide what data they’ll expose to interest-based advertising served from the Yahoo Ad Network. Before the launch, Yahoo used a binary opt-out format, which consumers could use to could turn off behavioral advertising. The platform gives consumers the option to personalize their online advertising experience.

“We were trying to give users more clarity and more information to act on so that we could get a sense of what the users were interested in with regards to online advertising,” said Anne Toth, VP of policy and head of privacy at Yahoo. “We wanted to give consumers control over their online advertising. We hope that consumers will use this tool to help us serve more relevant advertising.”

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