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Home > Articles > Are You Being Served? Behavioral Marketing and the "Ad Choice" Option


Are You Being Served? Behavioral Marketing and the "Ad Choice" Option

For most of us, the Internet has become an indispensable part of our lives. We access enormous amounts of information and entertainment with just a few clicks. We surf and shop for hours without once considering what might be happening behind the scenes. We view the Internet as a giant "black box" and how it works often remains a mystery.

Take Nancy for example. One day she signed up for a cooking newsletter for a chance to win an island vacation. She then started seeing ads for new episodes of the Travel Channel® show "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations." Do you know why Nancy saw these Web ads?

Behavioral Advertising
Nancy saw these particular Web ads thanks to online behavioral advertising or interest-based advertising. In layman's terms, behavioral advertising is the method used to present the most relevant Internet advertising to consumers, based solely on their browsing behaviors. Because Nancy's Web history demonstrated her interest in both cooking and travel, she was served an ad for a TV show about exotic vacations and food.

It's important to realize the extent to which your Internet usage is being tracked. Here are a few ways your usage is tracked for marketers:

  • Web sites viewed
  • Search terms entered
  • Your computer IP address (The IP address is a unique code assigned to each computer on the network, like a postal code, that provides some general information, such as country, city or time zone, about your computer's location.)
  • IP address
  • Demographic information1: Things such as income and household size that are inferred based on your Web browsing activities

Advertisers don't track your habits with the goal of invading your privacy; instead, their goal is to reach you with ads that meet your potential interests. People who oppose behavioral marketing, in general, aren't upset that ad content is being specifically targeted; they're upset that Web-browsing information is being tracked and recorded without their knowledge.

"Consumer Choice"
Nancy's experience is not unique. Behavioral advertising is a growing trend. Using this technique, advertisers can better identify potential consumers and serve relevant ads. However, regulatory agencies in the U.S., the EU and other locations have initiated industry efforts to inform consumers that behavioral tracking is occurring and allow users to opt out of future tracking. In the U.S., the Digital Advertisers Alliance has created an icon to help inform consumers about this practice and give them the option to opt out. Advertisers like P&G have started putting an icon on the Internet ads to alert consumers when an ad was served based on their alert Web behavior and, by clicking on the icon, consumers can choose to opt out for future tracking.

The Advertising Option — Ad Choice
The next time you are browsing the Internet, look for the ads with this icon. Take a few seconds to click on the icon and learn more about your options. Clicking on this icon will not only provide more information on behavioral advertising, including some of the key benefits to consumers, but it also will link to a Web site where you can choose to opt out of behavioral advertising. By becoming an informed consumer on the ever-changing topic of Internet privacy, you can decide what is right for you.

To learn more about online behavioral advertising and exercise your option to opt out, go to the Digital Advertising Alliance Web site — About Ads.

http://www.aboutads.info/

To learn more about your choices in the EU, click on this link: http://www.youronlinechoices.com/.

1 Behavioral Marketing 101. ClickZ.com, 2005.