Clarity & consumer control: The future for digital advertising

Blog posted by Nick Stringer
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As privacy continues to dominate the public policy discussions around digital advertising, Nick Stringer, the IAB’s Director of Regulatory Affairs, outlines what industry needs to keep an eye out for in 2013.

2013 has begun where we left off in 2012: with the digital advertising sector facing some stiff challenges from policy-makers and legislators. Stepping up to these via innovative self-regulation – as many businesses are doing – will show them that we are giving the privacy-conscious citizen the tools they need to take control. With this in mind, there are two developments to watch carefully over the coming months.

1)    The advertising icon comes out of the box across Europe.

As the advertising market continues to grow across all digital devices, funding much of the content, services and applications that we all enjoy and use, so the advertising icon rolls out across EU markets – supported by the European Commission – offering all European citizens greater transparency and control over targeted advertising. It follows significant investment and effort by businesses over many years across Europe (and beyond). Businesses that want to know more about how it all works can visit the IAB’s dedicated FAQs.

2013 will see the icon appear on mobile devices too, including within application ads. It is only a matter of time before consumers come to see the icon as a permanent feature across their digital experience.

That said most people do not know what the icon stands for or how to interact with it. It is meaningless for it to ‘come out of the box’ without providing some explanation. So, in or around the middle of the year, an advertising campaign will be launched across Europe (see the US campaign) to raise awareness of the icon and to – eventually – make it as recognisable as the green arrow logo that appears on recyclable materials. Watch this space.

2)    Putting innovation back in the box?

At the same time the European Institutions will continue with their negotiations on the proposed data protection reforms. For a set of rules to be agreed in the current European Parliamentary term (which ends in 2014), the European Commission must reach consensus on its proposals no later than the end of this year.

But the reforms pose significant issues to almost all digital business models, and not just marketing. Good data protection law should not throttle innovation. By potentially restricting the use of data, the effect could be to chill the evolution of innovation and ‘start up’ businesses. It is worth our elected representatives stopping to think about this before we potentially place innovation back in the box.

Privacy is now main stream: to organisations and consumers alike. Building privacy-enabling tools into product cycles gives consumers control and fosters trust. This is what any new rules should be encouraging.

The IAB will continue to offer policy guidance throughout the year; members can always sign up to our Policy Focus newsletter to stay up to date on policy and regulatory developments.

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