Online advertisers are working hard to self-regulate and avoid the wrath of the Federal Trade Commission when it comes to behavioral targeting. To help with those efforts, spam management company UnsubCentral launched a new tool that gives people more control over the ads they see online. PreferenceCentral lets consumers decide what kinds of behaviorally targeted advertising they do and do not want to recieve.
If individuals (and online advertisers) start using it, UnsubCentral could play a big role in serving more relevant (and welcome) advertising online. Trouble is, there's no way to know that will happen.
Consumers may enjoy interacting with friends, acquaintances and strangers across social media channels, but that doesn't mean they trust them as a source of advertising. However, a new host of companies are connecting brands to consumers through their social connections. Just as behavioral targeting has come under fire for tracking consumers online without their knowledge, companies that serve ads to individuals based on something someone in their social network has done will have to tread lightly to avoid regulation and consumer ire.
But that isn't going to stop companies from diving in head first.
In the battle to follow consumers and serve them better advertising, behavioral tracking has been getting a bad rap. And as privacy and consumer advocates' concerns grow louder, regulators and corporations are listening (and changing their policies), which is also making anonymous tracking less effective.
According to a study by Scout Analytics out today, new updates to the Flash interface are making it easier for consumers to opt out of online cookies. That means that Flash, once seen as the barometer for following consumer surfing habits, is becoming less useful for tracking people online. And that is only likely to get worse.
By now it is clear that privacy advocates and Federal Trade Commission employees don't like behavioral targeting. Online marketers are increasingly trying to steer clear of regulation on the matter, with clearer opt out policies and self-regulation. Google is going one step further, by trying to rebrand BT with a new name.
Today the search giant is opening up its "remarketing program" so that all advertisers can track consumers and serve ads dependent on their browsing history.
Calling behavioral targeting by another name isn't likely to work when regulators come down on the practice of tracking users online for marketing purposes. But at this point, it's worth a shot.
As if there weren't enough reasons for marketers to fear that federal regulators might turn off the behavioral targeting spigot, a new study claims that BT advertising is starting to deliver on those promises that advertisers have telling privacy advocates about. Conducted by online marketing cooperative Network Advertising
Initiative, the study found behavioral targeting to be more than twice as
Furthermore, they saw the benefits of behavioral targeting grow over the past year.
It's funny how the federal government's position on behavioral targeting changes when it wants to use the information gathered. According to CNET:
"The FBI is pressing Internet service providers to record which Web
sites customers visit and retain those logs for two years, a
requirement that law enforcement believes could help it in
investigations of child pornography and other serious crimes."
Twitter is over three years old and many people still don't get it. Just last week, The NewYorker's George Packer called it “crack for media addicts.” But will real-time oversharing services make it into the mainstream?
At The Future of Space and Time talk during Social Media Week in New York on Wednesday, panelists from the tech world noted that conditioning larger audiences to share their real-time info and location will be necessary for such technologies to truly take off.
And for advertisers, this could be the key to actually serving those relevant ads everyone's always talking about.
With increased scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, online advertisers and those who work with them are providing more options for consumers in efforts to ward off regulation on the industry. Last week, the Internet Advertising Bureau launched a new campaign meant to discourage irrational targeting fears. And today Yahoo launched a tool that will allow consumers to control the marketing messages they receive online.
Neither of these moves guarantee that regulators will backoff legislating online advertising, but advertisers are hoping that informing consumers will prove their best bet to avoid privacy laws. If they succeed, it will also lead to better advertising.
The future of behavioral targeting is in danger. With an ongoing Congressional investigation and growing privacy concerns, it looks as though consumers and regulators are not keen to have advertisers track web surfing behavior online. But there's another side to the story — does behavioral targeting even work?
The idea is that by following users online, they can get a clearer idea of people's buying habits and serve more relevant advertising to them. If that is not true, the case for behavioral targeting falls apart. And if preliminary results from Google's nascent attempts are any indication, BT does not appear to be working for the search giant.
According to Jim Brock, founder of PrivacyChoice,
chairman of Attributor, and former senior VP at Yahoo, Google's “interest-based advertising” only reaches about 25% of AdSense sites.
Behavioral targeting has been batted around by privacy advocates and regulators over the last year, but a new study from professors at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of
California, Berkeley has found that consumers not only want nothing to do with BT, they aren't interested in its side effect: better targeted ads.