Behavioral Targeting Opt-Out: What's the Real Deal?

  |  April 18, 2007   |  Comments

Striking a balance between trust and effective marketing.

Behavioral targeting has proven itself an effective marketing tool, and advertiser adoption is growing at a steady pace. But, as is the case with all online channels, consumer concerns about privacy plague behavioral targeting and its providers.

Debates about cookies, worries about Big Brother-like profiling practices...the bottom line is the current generation of consumers is pointedly aware of the privacy implications of anything they do on the Web, and they're taking varying degrees of steps to ensure their online life is kept confidential.

What does this mean for marketers who rely on behavioral targeting to power their campaigns? How do we strike the balance between consumer trust and effective marketing practices?

E-mail faces the same problems. Many agencies have all but abandoned it as a customer acquisition channel due to regulations and best practices that govern the way advertisers can communicate via mail. The email industry is fighting this problem with, among other techniques, opt-out registries. When a consumer opts out of a commercial e-mail, the law dictates the advertiser may no longer send e-mail to that address. Period. Done deal, end of story. Opt-out policies seem help with e-mail's spam and privacy issues, so can we translate this into behavioral targeting?

Well, sort of.

Ad networks are forthcoming with their targeting practices and policies. Yet consumers don't know who or where the ad networks are, making it difficult to visit each of their sites to opt-out. That's a lot to ask of most Internet users who want things done quickly and easily and (particularly when it comes to their privacy) clearly and thoroughly. In an effort to come up with a solution to privacy concerns while protecting the viability of behavioral targeting, The Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) developed a consumer opt-out repository. Consumers can opt-out of targeted advertising by all its member networks. The NAI's tool enables users to check which ad networks have placed a cookie on their hard drive, and then submit opt-out requests for each network they prefer not to be targeted by. It's a handy, centralized tool to help manage privacy preferences.

Many people, even without necessarily knowing why, know they can delete their cookies. Most belive this will protect them from being "profiled" or "followed" as they browse the Web. The catch is that in order for opt-outs to work, users must set their browsers to accept cookies so that they can be identified as opted-out of certain ad networks' targeted advertising. Blindly deleting cookies without really knowing why means not only will consumers inadvertently be opted back in, but it's also going to put a major dent in this practice which has become so effective for marketers and, whether they know it or not, useful and relevant for consumers, too.

As always, consumer education is key. Some ad networks have set up "educational" portals such as behavioraltargeting.com (run by SpecificMedia) or Yahoo's behavioral targeting site, but these all have a not-so-hidden agenda: to sell that vendor's services. Not to mention the fact consumers must search for them, and most don't even know what "behavioral targeting" means. When you're inside the industry, it's easy to open up a trade publication and learn about behavioral targeting, but what about average consumers who know they want to protect their privacy, but don't know they should read ClickZ to get the scoop on how?

It's going to be of the utmost importance that we get the truth on behavioral targeting out to everyday consumers, no matter how. Reach out to colleges and universities' advertising and marketing departments to educate up and comers. Industry organizations should start word-of-mouth about how behavioral targeting actually works, and how it can benefit consumers.

We're marketers aren't we? Now we must put our money where our mouths are. The only way to walk the fine line between consumer trust and effective marketing is to ensure the public knows what's what.

ClickZ Live Toronto Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robin Neifield

Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.

Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

ion Interactive Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper

Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper
Marketing apps can elevate a formulaic landing page into a highly interactive user experience. Learn how to turn your static content into exciting marketing apps.

eMarketer: Redefining Mobile-Only Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop

Redefining 'Mobile-Only' Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop
A new breed of selective mobile-only consumers has emerged. What are the demos of these users and how and where can marketers reach them?

Jobs

    • Contact Center Professional
      Contact Center Professional (TCC: The Contact Center) - Hunt ValleyLooking to join a workforce that prides themselves on being routine and keeping...
    • Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador
      Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreAgora, www.agora-inc.com, continues to expand! In order to meet the needs of our...
    • Design and Publishing Specialist
      Design and Publishing Specialist (Bonner and Partners) - BaltimoreIf you’re a hungry self-starter, creative, organized and have an extreme...