New Ad Industry Group Icon Could Symbolize Non-Behavioral Targeting, Too

The ad industry coalition formed to develop a standardized means of behavioral ad notice has unveiled an icon to appear in online ads and Web pages. The simple image and the technology powering it represents another component of the trade coalition’s grand scheme to pacify government regulators and lawmakers.

The icon is intended to be placed within ads employing behavioral data and targeting, as well as on Web sites running such ads. However, exactly when the icon will appear and why has yet to be determined. While the primary purpose of the icon is to clearly notify consumers that particular ads have been targeted using behavioral data, it may be applied more broadly to ads that employ other forms of targeting such as demographic, according to Mike Zaneis, VP of public policy for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a coalition member.

“Those are the things we’re still trying to work out,” Zaneis told ClickZ News, explaining that the icon could ultimately symbolize ad targeting other than behavioral. The challenge in that decision lies in balancing the need for wide dissemination and consumer understanding of the icon along with the need to preserve its meaning.

“You want ubiquitous notice, but you don’t want to dilute the [impact] of the icon,” said Zaneis.

The unveiling of the symbol follows the coalition’s release last year of Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising; it represents one of a series of steps the groups are taking to establish clear principles to protect consumer privacy while maintaining an increasingly popular and lucrative form of online advertising.

Another of those steps is the development of a system or systems to monitor for compliance with the principles, underway now. Six companies have submitted proposals for such systems, currently undergoing evaluation.

Development of the icon also involved consumer research conducted by WPP and the Future of Privacy Forum, in order to ensure the message behind the image gets across to consumers. “The Future of Privacy Forum and WPP…as part of that larger effort took responsibility for testing a variety of approaches”

The icon, a blue square featuring the letter “i” surrounded by a circle, will be accompanied by one of three official taglines: “Why did I get this/these ad(s)?,” “Interest Based Ad(s),” or “Ad Choice(s).” It was developed by the four coalition organizations: the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the Direct Marketing Association, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and Association of National Advertisers, which is overseen by the Better Business Bureau’s advertising review body.

The four coalition associations actually own the icon, and will determine how it can and cannot be employed, Zaneis added.

About two dozen firms are working under the oversight of the IAB to devise the backend technology that will actually power the icon – when it appears, what it links to, etc. “The technology standard will be developed and released in the next couple of months,” said Zaneis, adding that ad networks and exchanges are “heavily involved.” Behavioral ad network industry group the Network Advertising Initiative is also participating in development of the technology standard, according to Zaneis.

“As soon as that [technology] piece is done, then coalition members will be in a position to start actually implementing the [icon],” said Lee Peeler, EVP of the BBB, and president of its National Advertising Review Council. As the plan goes, the coalition will launch an education campaign about the icon and its meaning once it is disseminated.

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