Tacoda to Serve Ads about Its Ads

Call it a public service announcement for the behavioral targeting industry. Tacoda is making a preemptive strike with new ads explaining to consumers the role its technology plays in targeting messages to them. The firm’s founder and Chairman Dave Morgan expects a “blow up” in the behavioral targeting industry over privacy concerns, he told ClickZ News during Tuesday’s Federal Trade Commission hearings on “Protecting Consumers in the Next Tech-ade.”

If a privacy-related scandal does occur, “I don’t want to be painted like the rest” of the bad actors, said Morgan, adding the companies that are more trusted by consumers will be more successful in the long run.

As part of the firm’s new Consumer Choice Initiative, Tacoda will serve users who visit sites in its network in-page display ads explaining how the company works with publishers to serve customers relevant advertising. Ads will be served at least once every six months to every user who visits its network sites.

“We’re going to start giving actual notice… to try and make sure consumers understand what’s going on,” said Morgan while addressing the conference audience. The objective, he continued, is “to make sure as this industry evolves, we understand the importance of consumers in this process.”

The alert ads will link to a jump page featuring information about how Tacoda employs cookies in its ad targeting, and allowing users to opt out of its system. The company is developing a method of recognizing a consumer who has opted out even if she has removed cookies. In addition, Tacoda has reduced to one year the amount of time that transpires before a user’s cookies expire.

Also as part of the effort, the firm has stressed its decision not to use sensitive data such as medical information or sexual preference. According to Morgan, Tacoda has never used information it deems sensitive in targeting ads to users; however, he implied other targeting technologies do so.

“You don’t need to do stuff that would make an average consumer’s skin crawl,” he said. “It doesn’t serve anybody to do stupid things.”

When addressing the event’s audience, Morgan prefaced his talk by saying, “I’m in the advertising business and that will color some of the things I say.” In speaking with ClickZ after the session, he referred to the statement “as more inoculation than anything else,” since the perception of advertising, especially from the perspective of a government agency that monitors for nefarious industry practices, can often be negative. Morgan expressed surprise at the openness of the discussion at the conference, particularly towards those representing the ad and marketing industry.

As for Tacoda’s consumer notification campaign, Morgan said he hopes others in the industry follow with similar efforts, noting components of his firm’s initiative will be freely available to other companies.

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