Privacy Issue Reheating?

Interesting articles in Ad Age and MediaWeek today calling attention to potential privacy & regulatory issues surrounding Behavioral Targeting (BT).

The specter of regulation has loomed since the NebuAd debacle, but has seemed somewhat less menacing as Washington has focused on a stream of crises beginning with the financial meltdown in late 2008.

That now seems to be changing.  In addition to these articles and others, privacy/regulation was recently both a major theme in IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg’s remarks to the IAB’s 2010 Leadership Meeting and the subject of the hilarious Onion article mentioned in the Ad Age piece.  Quite a range of coverage.

I think there is legitimate discussion to be had about both consumer privacy and the related issue of data rights/ownership in the value chain.  These are both critical issues and the industry has only just begun to scratch the surface on both.  So it will be interesting to see if the privacy angle in particular gains steam once again in Washington now that the Health Care battle seems nearly over and the dust has settled somewhat from the “Great Recession”.

Something tells me the embers of the NebuAd conflagration are still good and hot, just awaiting a little oxygen.

Are you actually buying what you think you’re buying?

Great article by Mike Shields in MediaWeek yesterday. According to the article, Tremor Media was running ad for major brands that were a) in-banner video as opposed to pre-roll, b) below the fold and c) adjacent to questionable content.

I want to highlight two separate issues in the context of this article: quality control and credibility.

Quality control is something that has been top priority for Brand.net since inception, because it was the number one concern of our branding-focused clients. I have written extensively on this topic and Brand.net’s SafeScreen platform is the premier quality assurance platform on the web, providing page-level filtering to ensure quality for every impression that runs through the Brand.net network. The monitoring capabilities Adam Kasper mentions in the article can be useful, but it’s far better to prevent quality incidents in the first place. He’s dead on when he says that quality control is the ad network’s responsibility. Unfortunately, too often that responsibility is not fulfilled.

On my second point, ad networks at large have a reputation for not always being completely honest with clients. This is another issue I’ve written on in the past. In response to this particular incident, Shane Steele, Tremor’s VP marketing, was quoted saying, “It’s a very nuanced space, which makes it complicated”. Actual pre-roll video is indeed more complicated than display, but the ads at issue here were display ads. They just happened to be running video creative. So answers like this don’t help build credibility for networks and they certainly don’t help build the trust that’s so essential for major brands to fully leverage the medium.

Tod Sacerdoti summed it up well when he said, “There is a gap between what an advertiser thinks they are buying and what they are [actually] buying.” This gap occurs far too often today and it needs to be closed before the medium can fully mature.

DVRs are coming

Some new data points last week on the inexorable march of DVRs into US households.

I am obviously quite focused on brand advertising (the majority of which is still done on TV), so I have been closely following DVR penetration and its impact on advertising ever since I got my own DVR in 2005.  At that point, my TV consumption increased significantly (taking share from DVDs), but at the same time I stopped watching commercials.  I would estimate I only watch 10% of the commercials embedded in the TV content that I consume.  So more TV, but largely free TV; the only one getting compensated for the content I consume is Comcast.  Great news for them, but not so great news for the (largely brand) advertisers who paid top dollar for my attention and whose advertising I saw at 20X its intended speed, on a different day/daypart, with no sound.   So much for “sight, sound and motion”.

I am not alone.  As I have written earlier, DVR penetration of all US households is now >30% and going to 80% by 2016.  Articles like this one in MediaWeek make it seem like the level of conversation / realization is increasing.  However, when we consider the current market projections and new, penetration-driving technologies like “Virtual” DVR, it’s hard not to feel like the brand advertising community as a whole should be a bit more concerned and thus a bit more active in its search for TV alternatives.

Stay tuned.