Is Do Not Track on the Right Track?
Some very smart people have poked their heads in my office over the past couple of weeks asking my opinion on the FTC's proposed new Do Not Track system. Of course, I'm happy to oblige.
There are two key points that I think are the most important for publishers.
First of all, the FCC is not actually suggesting an opt-out list similar to the National Do Not Call Registry that prevents you from getting phone calls from Maria asking for a donation to Women Against Children Starting Fires. Instead, the concept of a Do Not Track system focuses on more transparent methods like adding functionality to a web browser similar to what's planned in Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9.
The second big issue is the education of the consumer. Look, my wife still types a full website address into the Yahoo! or Google search bar despite my efforts to show her it's completely unnecessary. I can talk to my wife about anything, but I just don't see myself sitting down with her for a conversation about cookies, personas and other targeting terms and tactics anytime soon.
Publishers are buying into behavioral ad targeting hoping for additional revenue while enhancing the user experience. That's where companies like BlueKai, OwnerIQ, Bizo, Acerno and many others come in.
When someone visits your website and sees an ad over and over again, they really shouldn't see it again. If they click and respond to something like a free trial, a visit to that same website or even another one could serve an ad inquiring about the trial and asking if the person is ready to buy. There are plenty of other examples, but these two should give you a decent idea of the premise of what's possible.
I certainly agree that allowing consumers to choose not to have this type of information tracked is necessary, but like a lot of other things the concept of government managing the process is somewhat troubling.
Almost a year ago, an icon was introduced as a sign of self-regulation to indicate that ads are being shown based on information about the consumer. Ad targeting has existed for quite some time based on geographic location, day of the week or time of day, web browser type, etc. I don't know about you, but I haven't seen the icon anywhere, which likely is another reason regulators have stepped in.