IAB boosts consumer awareness of online behavioural ads

Significant drive to enhance consumer information, including the re-launch of UK version of consumer website. Initiative supports the UK roll-out of the new advertising icon aimed at enhancing transparency and consumer control.


The Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB) is undertaking a significant drive to inform consumers about ads displayed on websites based on their previous web browsing behaviour - known as ‘behavioural’ or ‘interest based advertising’. This follows a recent study carried out by IAB UK and ValueClick which showed that the majority of UK consumers acknowledged the importance and role of relevant advertising in helping fund online content and services, but expressed a need to know more and have greater control over how information is collected and used in this process.

Re-launch of consumer site

At the heart of this consumer awareness drive is the re-launch of the UK version of the consumer website - Your Online Choices - following the roll-out of the website to 28 European countries and 22 different European languages.

The revamped UK version of the website includes:

  • New videos showing how behavioural advertising works as well as how online advertising is delivered to websites;
  • Improved information about the types of companies involved as well as controls allowing users to turn off each individual business, or turn off all of them with one click;
  • A revamp of the ‘top tips’ to help consumers find the new icon;
  • Frequently asked questions on behavioural advertising and consumer choices
  • An improved feedback process to help answer consumer queries.

The UK version of the website – linked from the new advertising icon and many websites - is increasingly popular with UK consumers who want to find out more and to exert greater control over behavioural or interest-based ads. The UK site received 291,812 Unique Visitors in June 2012, a 43% increase on the previous month. Only one fifth (18%) visited the control page in that month.

UK leading the way

The new advertising icon, now appearing in or around ads or on websites, is part of a broader EU programme to enhance transparency, information and consumer control over interest-based ads, an initiative explicitly supported by the UK Government. In the UK, 95% of the businesses serving behavioural or interest-based ads are already participating in the EU self-regulatory initiative, currently the highest of all EU markets.

The EU initiative will come into force formally on 1 October and will be supported by a robust compliance and enforcement mechanism, including a new a trading seal for compliant businesses, backed up by an independent consumer complaints process.

First steps towards a pan-European consumer advertising campaign

The re-launch of the website is a prelude to a cross-industry pan-European consumer advertising campaign later this year to help people understand online advertising and what the icon means.

Nick Stringer, director of regulatory affairs at the IAB UK, says: “UK consumers want relevant online advertising to help pay for the content and services they enjoy. They also want more information and control, as our recent consumer research makes very clear. The new icon in ads and on websites aims to do this, supported by easy-to-understand information and control via the revamped Your Online Choices. Better information means informed choices.”