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The rise of the internet and digital communications is transforming the way we live and work, and the way brands communicate with consumers. WPP has world-class capabilities in digital marketing and media. This is a significant and growing area of our business, with some 27% of our revenues coming from digital and direct marketing in 2009, up from 17% just five years ago. Through our digital experts across the Group, we help brands engage with consumers online, on their mobiles and through a range of interactive media.

These changes are bringing new responsibilities too – most notably the risks and challenges relating to issues of privacy and data security. Our companies are fully involved in the debate on these subjects and issues such as behavioural targeting, helping advertisers to understand consumer views and shaping new solutions and safeguards that support trust in digital marketing.

WPP companies in the US have been collaborating on a number of projects to improve transparency around behavioural advertising, to give consumers more control over when their data is collected and to help advertisers and online publishers comply with changing regulatory requirements.

Here we profile some of our recent thinking and work on these topics. Read more about our own privacy policies and practices.

Developing a consumer privacy icon

consumer privacy icon

WPP companies Ogilvy, GroupM and Kantar have been working pro bono with the Future of Privacy Forum, an advocacy group, to develop a privacy icon for online advertising. The icon will appear alongside phrases such as, ‘Why did I get this ad?’ on advertising that uses demographic or behavioural data, to show consumers that information about them is being collected. Consumers will be able to click on the icon to find out how their web surfing history and demographic profile is used to send them certain ads, and how they can opt out.

Ogilvy led the creative development, generating a number of compelling, consumer-friendly icons. These were tested through quantitative and qualitative consumer research by Kantar, to show which ones were best understood and remembered by internet users.

The American Association of Advertising Agencies, Association of National Advertisers, Direct Marketing Association, Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Council for Better Business Bureaus were also involved in the project. There is no legal requirement for advertisers, publishers and ad networks to use the icon, but it is hoped that it will be widely adopted.

WPP companies also worked with the Better Advertising Project to help develop the technology infrastructure to support the icon, and to ensure that it appears on all relevant ads and that consumer opt outs are observed.

Consumer attitudes on behavioural targeting – new research

Behavioural targeting uses consumer data such as browsing history to deliver advertising suited to a web user’s interests, allowing consumers to view more relevant advertising and giving brands higher response rates. However, some consumers and interest groups are concerned that the collection and use of data for behavioural targeting could affect consumer privacy.

For the second year in a row, TNS (WPP’s custom market research company) and TRUSTe (a leading internet privacy services provider) surveyed consumer attitudes about behavioural targeting. The research looked at what consumers think about having their browsing behaviours tracked for marketing purposes and found that behavioural targeting has become a critical online trust issue.

Participants answered questions on their concerns and opinions about tracking issues, and the actions they take to protect their privacy. The survey results found that most consumers consider privacy important enough to take steps to protect it. Many individuals know their behaviour is being targeted, and they’re uncomfortable with being tracked, even with the assurance of anonymity. Most are in favour of tools and features that control targeted advertising. Businesses have a stark choice: they can either increase transparency about their behavioural advertising practices or risk increasing consumer doubt and suspicion. Companies also need to treat personal information with respect and earn the right to deliver advertising based on behaviour.

Key results from the survey showed that:

  • 83.8% say that less than 25% of the ads they see while browsing online are relevant to their wants and needs.
  • 50.5% of respondents say they’re uncomfortable with advertisers using their browsing history to serve relevant ads, even when that information cannot be tied to their names or any other personal information.
  • Only 30.6% said they would be comfortable having their browsing behaviour captured by websites on which they’ve registered in order to improve user experience.
  • Consumer discomfort with tracking has declined by 6% year-over-year, suggesting that some consumers are more comfortable with behavioural targeting.

For more, contact David Stark, TNS privacy officer, North America:

Privacy Matters

Understanding advertising Advertising is creepy

WPP companies:
Schematic, 24/7 Real Media, GroupM

Interactive Advertising Bureau

Privacy Matters

As part of industry efforts to improve transparency around online advertising practices, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), an industry organisation, launched the ‘Privacy Matters’ campaign during 2009.

WPP digital agency Schematic worked pro bono with the IAB to develop a series of striking banner ads to attract the attention of web users and tackle some of the concerns surrounding online and behavioural advertising and to educate them about what behavioural advertising is and how it is used.

Users clicking on the banner are directed to the Privacy Matters website, also developed by Schematic. Here they can access easy-to-understand information about different types of online advertising and resources to help them manage their privacy online. The campaign is running throughout 2010 and all ad space has been donated by publishers and ad networks, including 24/7 Real Media’s Global Web Alliance.

The campaign has garnered widespread press attention, including stories in the New York Times, Advertising Age, Adweek, ClickZ and MediaPost. Between December 2009 and February 2010, the average percentage of people ‘mousing’ over the ads hit a high of 11% and at least 12 million people chose to take action and learn more about their online privacy. The daily average number of visitors to IAB’s website rose by about 80% in January 2010, as a direct result of visitors to the Privacy Matters pages.

WPP’s GroupM was also involved in the campaign and provided media planning services via its MEC agency.

Hey this banner can tell where you live! We're kidding actually, no banner can tell you where you live.

Jon Greenwood

Jon Greenwood

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The collection and use of data for digital marketing must balance the delivery of relevant advertising to consumers with respect for legitimate concerns about transparency and notice in online marketing practices. The digital marketing industry must continue to lead efforts to reach this balance and implement a compliance and auditing structure to support its self-regulation scheme.

Online advertising is a relatively new phenomenon. The advertising industry needs to demonstrate to consumers that the vast majority of practices are legitimate and based on completely anonymous information. The industry must invest in education that explains the benefits of data to the user’s online experience, including the receipt of relevant advertising.

Many tools have already been developed that enhance data transparency and choice for consumers including technology that allows them to opt out of online advertising. The industry must improve communication of these tools and continue to develop technology solutions based on a deeper understanding of consumer views. The privacy icon (see page 16) will provide additional information to consumers about behavioural targeting campaigns and other similar initiatives and will play an important role in raising public awareness.

It is important that we work with regulators and interest groups to ensure that new regulations in this area allow for innovation in digital marketing and don’t diminish the quality of the online experience for advertisers, publishers and, most importantly, consumers.

Jon Greenwood
Corporate vice president – Global Operations, 24/7 Real Media

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