Taking Interest-Based Advertising – and Self-Regulation – into Mobile Environments

Posted on by Beth Negus Viveiros

One of the most important tech developments for 2013 will happen in the area of interest-based advertising, and its adaptation to mobile applications.

Studies show that interest-based ads in the United States and elsewhere generate more than twice the revenue of non-targeted “run of network” advertising. A Network Advertising Initiative study also shows that behaviorally-targeted ads – primarily on the desktop – are more than twice as effective at converting users who click on such ads. So, taking such ads to the mobile Web and mobile apps is a priority for many brands.

During the past year, the Digital Advertising Alliance, which manages the self-regulation program for interest-based ads, the “Advertising Options” icon which accompanies such ads, and interest-based advertising’s governing principles, has taken huge strides to increase consumer awareness, education and understanding regarding their choices in receiving interest-based ads. In tandem, we worked diligently with the advertising community to expand industry adherence to the Principles, and enforcement through third parties (Council of Better Business Bureaus and the Direct Marketing Association) to see them implemented and adhered to effectively.  Such efforts enable brands to gain this high level of consumer and user engagement in a trusted, transparent and increasingly global manner.

As a result, the “Advertising Options” icon has become a familiar sight:  The icon is delivered more than a trillion times across the Internet every month – today, mostly on desktops. As a result of consumer outreach, traffic to our education and choices pages on our two sites overall (www.aboutads.info and www.YourAdChoices.com) increased 10-fold over 2011.  There have been 14 million unique visits recorded at www.YourAdChoices.com in just 12 months’ time. That’s a clip of 1.3 million per month, which demonstrates both interest and traction.

With this success comes the need to capitalize on Principles’ adherence in the next realm of the internet, namely within mobile app environments where interest-based ads also can be served.


•      How do we clarify how the existing DAA principles apply within mobile apps & sites and across mobile apps & sites where interest-based ads are served?

•      How do we ensure the principle of consumer control expressed via the DAA Consumer Choice Mechanismscan be honored in mobile apps, sites and devices?

•      How do DAA participants deliver enhanced transparency such as the Advertising Options icon on mobile interest-based ads? Where’s the real estate?

•      How do we extend such notice and choice through all mobile environments? How do we ensure it is honored?

Achieving these aims is not simply a matter of policy, it is also a matter of technology which facilitates the Principles being honored – so that policy is adhered to in the real world. Mobile technology platforms can differ by carrier, operating system and device.  And applications within these environments also add a level of complexity, so to honor user choices about interest-based ads, whenever and wherever a consumer or business user employs a mobile device or application is a current challenge we are seeking to address.  Although the Principles will be consistent across systems, the technology must adapt to the challenges of the current mobile environment.

The DAA has a current working group addressing these challenges with stakeholders across the ecosystem.  This group in conjunction with other DAA participants is assessing technological options that will allow consumers to exercise their choices under the DAA Principles in the mobile environment.  Among other challenges, we are working to identify a solution that will perform effectively across the wide variety of mobile platforms, account for the small screen size of most mobile devices, and provide integrated choice per device despite the separation between the mobile Web and mobile app ecosystems.  Satisfying these aims is not easy, but we believe that a solution is within reach.

 Just as the Advertising Options icon has proven a transformative new way to implement online notice and choice, we expect that the DAA’s forthcoming solution will do the same in the mobile environment.

Lou Mastria is the managing director of Digital Advertising Alliance.


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