BBB beefs up Advertising Accountability Program


The Council of Better Business Bureaus is closer to its goal of monitoring online advertising data collection of consumers, and informing them. Implementation of its online Advertising Accountability Program is moving forward by signing a contract with Evidon, Inc., a commercial marketer of monitoring services, and tapping Eugenie Barton, former VP/general counsel to the US Telecom Association, as Director of the program.

The goal is to advance enforcement of the principles established by the cross-industry Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising. The principles apply consumer-friendly standards to online interest-based advertising.  They were developed and are supported by the leading ad industry trade organizations including the 4As, American Advertising Federation (AAF), American Association of National Advertisers (ANA), CBBB, Direct Marketing Association (DMA), Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). The Council was tasked with building an accountability program to promote compliance with the Principles.

The program supports a system of “enhanced notice” to consumers. The ad industry has created an industry icon that appears in or near interest-based ads, or elsewhere on the Webpage where the ads are served or data is collected for interest-based advertising, to signal to consumers that the site they are browsing may collect data.  The icon links to a notice of the data collector’s practices and provide consumer a “choice” – the ability to opt out of future interest-based advertising.

Barton said the services will provide the accountability program with a bird’s eye view of online interest-based advertising and an early warning system to detect potentially problematic data collection: “We will be monitoring everyone engaged in interest-based advertising – advertising networks, advertising agencies, Web publishers, advertisers and service providers.”

Evidon will provide services that include analytics derived through its Ghostery unit, lab analysis and its database of companies potentially engaged in the collection and use of information for interest-based advertising. 

Details on the Advertising Accountability Program:
•Monitors the marketplace externally for data that suggests non-compliance with key notice and choice requirements
•Reviews reports from consumers and other stakeholders regarding potential non-compliance.  The report form is available on the BBB website.
•Conducts inquiries into instances of potential non-compliance
•Reports non-compliance and refers uncorrected non-compliance to government

FYI, the Council administers the advertising industry’s self-regulatory programs, including the National Advertising Division, Children’s Advertising Review Unit, Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program, and Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, while the National Advertising Review Council (NARC) sets policies and procedures for advertising industry self-regulation.

RBR-TVBR observation: Behavioral online ad information is extremely important to marketers to make their campaigns effective. But, of course, there is a thin line of invading one’s privacy to get that info. With the ad organizations keeping self-regulation a priority, it keeps them one step ahead of the FTC getting involved and making its own regulation(s).