Randall Rothenberg, President of the IAB claims regulatory and special interest forces are out to destroy many aspects of Interactive advertising, especially behavioral targeting.
This was my number 8 out of 10 on my 2010 predictions as published in PM360.
We have only ourselves to blame as in industry for not stepping up with self-regulations sooner. The IAB is now focused on education consumers about BT (behavioral targeting) and trying to harness the industry toward self-regulation, but it may be too little too late.
I’ve been preaching against this practice since it started. I recall leading a very vocal, controversial and engaging workshop on it with Bob Gear (from Insight Interactive at the time) at a very early CBI eMarketing Conference (perhaps 7 years ago now). Particularly in healthcare, BT poses a significant line drawing problem. While the average consumer may “feel OK” about an advertising company tracking (and dropping a cookie on their browser for future ad targeting) the fact that they go to allergy or GERD sites, they probably would NOT feel OK about the same advertising company tracking them on cancer or HIV sites. Who is to determine what is acceptable? The Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) came up with a set of guidelines to try to draw the line for the world… but who are they to decide? In the end it is the consumers individual choice. What I view as personal, NAI may view as fair game.
The NAI also offers an “opt-out” on their homepage for participating networks. Where as most pending legislation wants an explicit opt-in requirement. People are apathetic, with neither and opt-out or an opt-in getting much use. Perhaps this is a signal that congress is trying to fix a “non-problem”. In defense of online advertising, perhaps apathy (that of the general population and potentially that of congress) might just win out in favor of the status quo.