IAB Sets Guidelines for Ad Networks and Exchanges

The Interactive Advertising Bureau announced guidelines on Thursday designed to standardize the information that ad networks and exchanges provide to advertisers and agencies.

Here’s a rundown of the IAB’s new guidelines:

– Transparency should exist for inventory sources, publisher relationships, content types, and ad placement details.

– Advertisers should be presented with content categories that are universally defined in the industry.

– Categories of illegal content should be defined or labeled. An example: content that infringes a copyright and thereby should be marked as prohibited for sale.

– Under the industry organization’s provisions, ad networks should rate content for audience segments.

– Data disclosure terms should be outlined for off-site behavioral targeting and third-party data.

– Companies should provide for IAB training of appointed compliance officers in each certified network or exchange.

Increasingly, brands have asked for more transparency from networks, exchanges, agencies, and data brokers so they know exactly what kind of online inventory they are buying for display campaigns. The issue has sometimes proven to be bone of contention between brands and inventory sellers in recent months. But whether the IAB’s call for standardization on that front will reap compliance remains to be seen.

Amy Manus, media director for the Montreal-based Nurun and a ClickZ columnist, said she was pleased to see the guidelines being presented. Though, Manus also suggested there is still work to be done in terms of end-to-end transparency.

“I am particularly happy to see source relationship transparency on the guidelines, as this is something we are always cognizant of when securing inventory for our clients,” she said. “Additionally, the section categorizing and setting assurances on questionable content is always good to see. One thing I would like as an additional assurance is more transparency on the compliance with the quarterly internal audit; which I would hope includes regular campaign inventory audits.”

The new IAB guidelines are its latest effort – and the digital advertising community as a whole – to reel in an industry constantly changing on technological and data fronts. The IAB’s move comes as a time when some privacy advocates have called for more stringent measures such as obtaining explicit permission from consumers before receiving targeted ads.

These guidelines came three days after the Better Advertising Project went live with its self-policing system, which is supposed to give consumers more control over how they are targeted by advertisers. Microsoft, American Express, AT&T, and several other major marketers have reportedly begun testing the so-called “power eye” system. It entails an icon in the upper right-hand corner of an online ad and looks like a combination of an eye and a power button. Viewers who mouse over the icon will see the data that was employed to target the ad, as well as the chance to opt-out of future targeting by those companies.

Learn more about ad networks and exchanges at a one-day forum on Aug. 18, 2010 during Connected Marketing Week in San Francisco.

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