Building Brands Through OBA Compliance

This guest post written by Scott Meyer, CEO of Evidon, is a sneak peak of his session at the upcoming CM Summit.

Can OBA compliance be a brand-enhancing experience? Read on for survey results in this article.

It’s a scary and confusing time in the online ad market. The future is all about data. But, the government keeps sending messages that this future is at risk unless we can do more to give consumers more control over targeting. Enter the Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA).

So, what’s going to drive broader adoption of the Program? If we attain it, and deliver meaningful transparency and control to consumers through the “Ad Choices” notice on ads/sites, we’ve been given every indication that Congress and the FTC will find it unnecessary to create more prohibitive regulations around OBA. That means freer spending on (responsible) targeted advertising, which, it has been repeatedly proven, generates better results.

What’s interesting is that the conversation to date about the road to better privacy controls for consumers is nearly always laced with the gloom-and-doom, using fear (of inquiry, lawsuit, inclusion in the “What They Know” series, etc.) to spur the ad market into action. But what about the possibility that adopting the program may actually be good for brands—something that companies want to do, as opposed to being scared into doing? That part isn’t as frequently discussed.

Granted, fear is compelling. Businesses big and small are starting to get called out. And while the big guys can likely handle some bad press, no one wants to see their company hit with an FTC order that requires 20 years of reporting (this really happened in March!). The smaller players obviously have the most to fear—a major privacy flap, and they might not be around next year.

The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), the coalition of trade organizations spearheading the Self-Regulatory Program (including the IAB, 4A’s, ANA, DMA and AAF), is also starting to put the pressure on. IAB has issued its own deadline, stating that its members need to abide by its privacy Code of Conduct (which would make them compliant with the Self-Regulatory Program) by the end of August or lose their membership (compliance is now also a prerequisite of joining the IAB). Other trade orgs within the Coalition are sure to follow suit shortly. The enforcement end of the Program—run by the Council of Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Review Council and the DMA—is under way.  It’s only a matter of time before companies with questionable privacy practices start popping up on their radar, getting letters, and potentially being turned over to the FTC. Compelled yet?

But, what about the other side of it? Can OBA compliance be a brand-enhancing experience—a “want to” as much as a “have to?” We’ve done some research that suggests that it can. In a study we did with Millward Brown, consumers were taken through the Evidon ad notice for four different brands representing a cross-section of verticals and asked about the experience. After some general questions, they were asked more specifically about how this sort transparency affected their opinion of the brands.

The bottom line? People react favorably to transparent brands. Some key findings from respondents:

  • 76% said they want to see all companies involved in targeting an ad to them. This is about full disclosure in the context of a given ad. Simply sending users to a generic page of all companies involved in behavioral targeting doesn’t help them determine how they got the ad they just saw. By that same token, partial disclosure of companies involved in targeting that ad is not real transparency, and it won’t pass muster in DC.
  • 57% said they feel more positive towards transparent brands.
  • 67% said they feel more positive towards brands that give them control. This included the ability to opt out of being targeted.
  • 36% said they’re more likely to buy from transparent brands.

The suggestion that transparency can create better, more loyal customers is clearly pretty compelling, and we’ll be releasing some new research shortly that should drive the point home further. Remember, while we at Evidon have been operating at scale for a while, with more than 20 billion impressions delivered, the DAA program is still relatively new, launched only last October. When the industry has more data—from research like this to proof of improved ROI as a result of empowering consumers in this way—businesses will have a better reason than fear to get with the Program.

To hear more on the topic, join Scott Meyer, John Battelle and a star-studded roster of industry leaders at CM Summit this June 6-7 at the Hudson Theater in New York City.