IAB, PLI Launch Privacy Ads

A new advertising campaign, launched under the auspices of two marketing industry consortia, aims to educate consumers about safeguarding their own online privacy — and to encourage the government to keep its hands off Web marketing in the process.

The campaign, designed by the New York-based Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Privacy Leadership Initiative, aims to display tips to help Web surfers protect their personal information from theft and abuse. The suggestions include choosing unique passwords and preventing unauthorized use of personal computers.

Seven ads are included in the campaign, using the banner ad, IAB “large rectangle” sizes and a new rich media ad format developed by New York-based digital art house turned ad firm Netomat. The companies said that additional creatives would be rolled out in coming months, and PLI said it plans to sponsor similar efforts pertaining to offline marketing.

Twenty-six member companies of the New York-based Interactive Advertising Bureau — an association of Web publishers and online ad sales firms — donated 538.6 million impressions to the effort, media valued at more than $13 million. The campaign’s organizers say they expect to reach an estimated 70 percent of the Web population through the push.

The message that goes out to Web surfers through the effort will help them better understand online privacy, said PLI director David Klaus.

“PLI members know that privacy is good for business and that business has a responsibility to directly address the privacy needs of consumers,” Klaus said. “Enhancing the consumer’s ability to control how their personal information is used either online or offline is one of the most critical issues facing companies.”

However, there’s more at stake than just alerting consumers to privacy issues.

The PLI describes itself as a non-profit partnership providing “research and education to help consumers meet their privacy needs.” In effect, however, its chief goals are to provide a measure of industry self-regulation to encourage consumer trust in Internet commerce, and to avoid government intervention in Web privacy issues.

The group, which shares an office with the New York-based Direct Marketing Association, is a partnership of top-level executives from 15 major corporations and nine business associations, almost all of participate in online or database marketing — such as DoubleClick, Harris Interactive, Acxiom and Experian. Executives from major advertisers like IBM, Dell, Intel, Procter & Gamble and Eastman Kodak also sit on the group’s board. (In addition to IAB firms, Kodak is also donating media to the campaign.)

Like the DMA, the PLI’s contends that the online marketing industry can regulate itself without government involvement, because consumers benefit from online profiling and tracking.

“The purpose of the PLI is to create a climate of trust which will accelerate acceptance of the Internet and the emerging Information Economy, both online and off-line, as a safe and secure marketplace,” reads a note on the group’s Web site. “There, individuals can see the value they receive in return for sharing personally identifiable information and will understand the steps they can take to protect themselves. As a result of sharing, individuals will have the power to enhance the quality of their lives through personalized information, products and services.”

In July, PLI members testified before a Senate Commerce Committee panel about the benefits of online profiling and database marketing — and why the government should continue a laissez faire policy toward online advertising.

PLI member Harris Interactive also said that a recent poll it conducted showed that consumers want to share the responsibility for their online privacy with businesses and government, but say they lack the know-how to do this.

“Privacy is a critical issue for our members, and we are pleased to be able to work with the PLI on this consumer education effort,” said IAB president and chief executive Robin Webster. “We know people are concerned about receiving information and how to meet their individual privacy needs and we believe this campaign will help address their needs. We are indebted to all the companies who have joined us in this important effort.”

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