The 40-year-old National Advertising Review Council (NARC), founded in 1971, is now the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC). The rebranded organization has not missed a day of work, but its new identity is live at www.asrcreviews.org.
But “Do you now what NARC is and what it does?” asked Ad Age. “Don’t feel bad if the answer is no.” Ad Age described a “perennial lack of awareness” in Washington and on Madison Avenue, and the organization felt that the moniker Advertising Self-Regulatory Council would be far more clear.
Too bad: NARC was a pretty bold acronym to begin with (it is of course the shortened version of “narcotics officer”). But it was not one the NARC board necessarily liked. Nancy Hill, president-CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and an ASRC board member told Ad Age "It has the connotation of people undercover, spying on drug dealers—and that's not at all what we do.”
Still, “This strong, bold brand recognizes the industry's commitment to self-regulation and the comprehensive scope of self-regulatory activities – the growing number of programs and services, the broad reach of decisions and the expanded industry representation on the ASRC Board of Directors," said Eric Mower, Chairman of the ASRC Board of Directors and Chairman and CEO of Eric Mower and Associates.
The new brand was developed pro bono by Leo Burnett USA, and comes as the self-regulatory system marks a 40-year partnership between the advertising industry and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) to provide objective third-party oversight of advertising practices.
Still - What Does ASRC do?
"The notion that advertisers could or would self-regulate was greeted with some skepticism in 1971. Since that time, however, the industry has consistently demonstrated its commitment to the establishment and enforcement of strong, meaningful standards," said C. Lee Peeler, President and CEO of ASRC.
ASRC sets the policies and procedures for advertising industry self-regulation programs. In 2009, the Board of Directors expanded beyond its founding partners – 4As, American Advertising Federation (AAF), Association of National Advertisers, (ANA), and CBBB – to include the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). The CBBB serves as the third-party administrator of a self-regulatory system that now includes:
- National Advertising Division (NAD), 1971
- National Advertising Review Board (NARB), 1971
- The Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU), 1974
- The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP), 2004
- The NAD/CRN Initiative, 2006
- The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program, 2010
These programs examine the truth and accuracy of advertising claims, the appropriateness of children's advertising practices and, in the case of the Accountability Program, promote compliance with the advertising industry's self-regulatory standards.
Both the ERSP program and the NAD/CRN Initiative began at the request of a specific industry segment for ASRC-led oversight. ERSP was launched in partnership with the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) and examines core advertising claims communicated through direct-response advertising. The NAD/CRN Initiative began at the request of the Council for Responsible Nutrition and examines the truth and accuracy of advertising claims made for dietary supplements.
The Accountability Program – the most recent self-regulatory program – was developed at the urging of a cross-industry coalition of trade associations. The Accountability Program reviews compliance with the industry-accepted principles for online behavioral advertising (OBA), focuses on transparency and consumer-control issues and monitors companies that may be engaged in OBA.
"Industry support is as critical now as it was in 1971," said Mr. Mower. "Our industry has always faced challenges – new technologies, societal and cultural sensitivities, legislative and regulatory scrutiny. And as we meet each challenge, we must demonstrate to consumers that we are focused on their concerns. The best demonstration is effective self-regulation."
- A New York appeals court has resurrected “an epic copyright case over whether Google should be liable for movies and tv shows uploaded to YouTube” during its early days, reports PaidContent. A lower court judge had dismissed the case in 2010 stating that Google was protected by a “safe harbor” law distanced hosting sites from infringing content uploaded by third parties. Viacom counters that Google actively enabled and encouraged the practice, and claims it is owed $1 billion in royalties over 79,000 clips of shows like “John Stewart” and “South Park.”
- Twitter is opening offices in Detroit, “looking for better proximity to car companies with hefty ad budgets” according to a Reuter’s story. This following a notable financial recovery by General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler from years of restructuring and depressed auto sales. Google. Google claims it will have a "handful" of employees in Detroit, focused on working first-hand with automotive brands and advertising agencies.
- Elsewhere in Twitter news, it is actively protecting users and advertisers against spammers. The company said on its blog that “Our engineers continue to combat spammers’ efforts to circumvent our safeguards, and today we’re adding another weapon to our arsenal: the law…we filed suit in federal court in San Francisco against five of the most aggressive tool providers and spammers. With this suit, we’re going straight to the source.” As ClickZ details, the defendants include three companies and two individuals: TweetAttacks; TweetAdder; TweetBuddy; James Lucero; and Garland Harris. “By shutting down tool providers, we will prevent other spammers from having these services at their disposal,” stated Twitter.” Further, we hope the suit acts as a deterrent to other spammers, demonstrating the strength of our commitment to keep them off Twitter.
- Facebook is also cracking down on spam, reports ClickZ. It has filed three separate lawsuits in federal court this week, alleging violations of the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, (known as CAN-SPAM). The suits name two individuals, Steven Richter and Jason Swan, and one company, Max Bounty, Inc., of “using deceptive practices to trick Facebook members into handing over personal information, spamming friends or signing up for fake offers.” These filings come just two days after the Wall Street Journal alleged that makers of the top-10 Facebook apps (including Zynga of FarmVille fame) were transmitting Facebook User IDs to outside companies, violating Facebook's terms of service. Bad timing, with an IPO pending that is heavily dependent upon advertiser value.
- Time Warner Cable is promising an app for Android-based phones and tablets before Memorial Day, reports Multichannel News. But, not many Android devices currently on the market will be able to run it. The TWC TV app will run only on devices that support Google's Android 4.0 (known as “Ice Cream Sandwich”), and which few devices yet support. Still says TWC, it is “The only version of the Android OS that allows us the security and stability necessary to distribute video over our private network." The TWC TV apps for iPad released in April 2010, followed by versions for iPhone and iPod touch.
- Travel Channel has released the network’s first travel guide application, available now on iTunes. The app, entitled the “Travel Channel Layover Guide With Anthony Bourdain,” “weeds through the cluttered digital travel space,” says the network. The app combines the curated tastes of the network’s Emmy-winning host, Anthony Bourdain, with practical tools to help users create their own Bourdain-inspired excursions in one of 10 major cities, including Amsterdam, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York and Rome, among others. For $1.99, users can customize a trip, from an afternoon pub crawl to a week-long immersion of food, drink and fun.
- ESPN is claiming its most-watched men’s college basketball season, both on cable and online. Throughout the regular season, college basketball content across ESPN.com, the ESPN mobile Web and ScoreCenter delivered 1.6 billion total minutes and 283 million visits, up 16 percent and 5 percent respectively compared to the previous season. Additionally, college basketball regular season games on ESPN3 and WatchESPN across computers, smartphones and tablets logged 455.9 million minutes, up 56 percent compared to ESPN3 on computers the previous season. During the season, it logged its most watched college basketball game ever on February 8 with 4.4 million minutes generated across computers, smartphones and tablets for the March 3 Duke vs. North Carolina game.
- It seems that Facebook “F” or Twitter “T” makes us feel watched, and influences our online shopping. So found researchers from the University of Miami School of Business; Empirica Research; and Stylecaster Media Group, as described in BizReports. The researchers found that buyers who felt proud to be associated with a brand were 25% more likely to make the purchase with the icons present; the subtle message is “Look at me! I’m buying luxury goods!” or eco-friendly goods, and so forth. Conversely, shoppers are 25% less likely to make a purchase they deem embarrassing (perhaps cheap goods, “marital aids” or medications at an online pharmacy) with the icons present. The shoppers presume less privacy.
- The U.S. Justice Department plans to sue Apple and five of the biggest U.S. publishers in an antitrust suit, reports the Wall Street Journal in an exclusive. The Department charges those publishers with colluding to raise the price of electronic books, according to people familiar with the matter. The defendants include Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, Pearson PLC’s Penguin Group, and HarperCollins Publishers. Several of the parties have held talks to settle the case and head off a court battle. The WSJ speculates that the result of this case will be less electronic books.
- AllTwitter, the “Unofficial Twitter Resource” run by MediaBistro, has released a compelling infographic on the influence of social media in the beauty industry. Consumers spend an estimated $59 billion on beauty products annually, and engage with or shop for the brands through Facebook and Twitter. The Sephora brand (both cosmetics and its retail stores) has, for example, more than 2.7 million Facebook followers, and lead the cosmetics industry in Twitter fans and followers. No speculation as to just how much the social media presence drives sales.
The Obama administration has made it formal: in a report released yesterday, the Administration calls upon Congress to enact a privacy bill of rights for web users, and it calls upon companies like Google and Facebook to develop those standards, reports Business Week. Key among the rights is a simple, one-click opt-out of data collection. President Obama said in a statement “Consumers can’t wait any longer for clear rules…consumer trust is essential for the continued growth of the digital economy.”
Putting Google and Facebook in charge is a matter of fox guarding hen houses. Google was caught last week bypassing privacy settings on Apple’s Safari browser, which by default blocks cookies. Somehow, as CNN reported, Google tricked the browser into believing the viewer had interacted with an ad, thus giving Google permission to install a test cookie and collect user data. CNN called this just “the latest high-profile flap over online data privacy.” The Federal Trade Commission in 2011 settled complaints against Google, Facebook and Twitter over their handling of consumer data.
But, those companies are just three members of a consortium, which will also include the member organizations of the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). Those member organizations include the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the American Advertising Federation (AAF), the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI). DAA said in a statement that the Administration had called upon it to “[create] robust self-regulation to protect consumer privacy rights and expectations in the advertising-supported Internet,” and claimed to be “honored.”
How honored DAA is has yet to be determined. The DAA earlier in February argued that it “wanted to put all the force of self regulation” behind ensuring consumer privacy, according to an Adweek story. It would police itself. But Adweek also observed that the Google snafu would likely put the kibosh on self regulation: the Administration is likely to legislate privacy measures. In fact, The Commerce Department will with with those companies and organizations—plus privacy advocate groups like the Center for Digital Democracy—to develop those (for now) voluntary standards.
Until any such legislation passes (if indeed), The White House report prescribed broad principles for the use of personal information, which includes giving consumers clear control over what data is collected and how it is used, the Business Week story describes.
Ad Targeting and Do Not Track
As the Business Week story described, privacy advocates are simply opposed to tracking consumers without permission, for purposes of targeted advertising.
DAA General Counsel Stu Inglis argues that online ad networks are willing and able to adhere to the anti-tracking tools available in most Web browsers (e.g., the “InPrivate” option available in Internet Explorer). Thus it is up to Mozilla with Firefox, Microsoft with Internet Explorer and so forth, to solve the opt-in/opt-out dilemma. Google said yesterday it would enable a “do-not-track” button to be embedded in its browser to let users limit information gathered on browsing habits.
No experts have weighed in on the potential impact to targeted advertising. But if Google, Microsoft and the DAA have their way, behavioral tracking will remain standard, and targeted advertising will survive it—perhaps for the better. Opt-in is of course the sign of a qualified sales lead.
• Apple has been “shopping around for TV parts,” reports AllThingsD, meaning an Apple-platform smart TV is inching toward reality. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a note to clients that Apple has been talking to TV component vendors. This following some January meetings in Asia, supposedly to scope out manufacturing facilities, which led Piper Jaffray to believe Apple is looking to manufacture large-scale LCD displays.
• Citing “inventory oversupply” in the mobile ad space, Digiday reports that during Q3 of 2011, only 18 percent of impressions were filled by the top 20 U.S. mobile ad networks, and 10 percent worldwide. This says Digiday makes it “increasingly difficult for publishers to generate revenues from their mobile audiences.”
• About.com (a New York Times company) with its evergreen content may not seem a serious ad outlet, but, it is serious enough for Charles Schwab and Procter & Gamble. Now the online outlet has launched Real Recipes, a free app for iPhone and iPod Touch, to deliver About.com’s “deep catalogue of culinary content” (more than 25,000 recipes and numerous menu-planning tools) to the digital space.
• Former “NBC Dateline” anchor will bypass television and anchor straight from the web, reports TV Newser. In a video message on the StonePhillipsReports.com website, Phillips declared that after 20 years in broadcast news, he will now report on stories important to himself. First out of the lineup—head injuries in youth football, in a story called “Hard Hits, Hard Numbers.” As yet, Phillips is not accepting advertising, just donations. Dateline NBC did not review Phillips’ contract in 2007, and he has not been on broadcast television since.
• In an attempt to promote its Bing search engine over Google, Microsoft has launched its “Putting People First” campaign in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today. As Social Times describes, Microsoft argues in the ad that Google sells out users to advertisers by using personal information to influence the type of advertising each customer sees. Microsoft products including Hotmail, Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer and Bing, are far safer and more private, the company claims.
Child privacy protection can go too far, complains the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). It believes a proposal by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that strengthens child privacy regulations “would have substantial negative effects for parents, children and companies alike.” The 10-year-old Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) bans website owners from collecting such “unique identifiers” from children, such as names, addresses and telephone numbers, without parental consent. The proposed changes would broaden the definition of a “unique identifier” to include tracking cookies, device serial numbers, and in some cases, IP addresses, reports MediaDailyNews. This, complains IAB, would render behavioral targeting (e.g., targeted advertising and demographic data) practically impossible.
Personal data is not just the concern of large internet companies and government regulators. A recent Retrevo Gadgetology study found that there’s a lot of snooping and tracking going on among people who know each other. More than a third of respondents, -- 33% -- admitted to checking a boyfriend’s or girlfriends email or call history without their knowledge. Slightly more married couples snoop on their spouses (37%) and an even larger number of parents spy on their kids (39%). The number of parents snooping is highest among parents of teenagers with 60% snooping on their kids and possibly for good reason as 14% of those parents reported finding something they were concerned about.
The online advertising industry’s self-regulatory effort is going slowly, reports the Wall Street Journal from the Privacy Identity Innovation conference in Santa Clara, Calif., on Friday. Fewer than 10% of targeted ads contain icons that inform users that their personal data is being used. The icons are supposed to be placed on ads that are targeted at users based on their online behavior. The online ad industry agreed last year to post the icons into ads as an effort to forestall government regulation. As well, few users are activating the “do-not-track” tool that some browser makers have added to their browsers. Alex Fowler, head of privacy for Mozilla Inc., said only 1% to 2% of users have turned on the do-not-track tool that the company added to Firefox 4, which was released this year. Google is the only major browser maker that has not pledged to adopt the do-not-track tool. Google senior privacy counsel Keith Enright said at the conference that Google is “looking at” do-not-track, but “I don’t know what a do-not-track header is,” he said. “I don’t know what it means.”
LivingSocial and Foursquare are fighting for their share of an expected $136-billion local ad spending in 2011. The local ad spending would come from small shops, neighborhood restaurants, and retailers as online social media companies set their sights on this untapped pool of revenue, according to Reuters. Foursquare currently has about 10 million users and about 400,000 merchants using its tools to drive traffic to their stores. With about 30 million members worldwide, LivingSocial is still far smaller than the No. 1 player in the market, Groupon, which has about 70 million users and is expected to file for a public offering this year. LivingSocial is on track to generate $1 billion revenue this year.
New York Times social media editor Liz Heron at the BBC’s Social Media Summit said that the news group’s social media team has grown from one to three people, and the Times’ strategy has evolved over the last few months. Heron says she asks staff reporters who want to create social accounts to first explain their strategy for interacting with users, reports Lost Remote. Heron said that the social media team wants to start focusing on Facebook more, and to do more with its 1.3 million followers. As well, the Times plans to un-automate their main @nytimes Twitter account, which has 3.2 million followers.
- In step with the success of its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad content that has more than a million active users, PBS has launched a PBS KIDS Video for iPad App, reports Broadcasting & Cable. The app offer free video streaming of over 1,000 episodes from PBS KIDS and PBS KIDS GO! series, including The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That, Dinosaur Train, Super Why, Sid the Science Kid, Sesame Street and Wild Kratts. The app, available from the App Store, also has content for parents.
- Representatives of Apple and Google, makers of software used in millions of smartphones, appeared in Congress today as lawmakers consider new online privacy rules that could alter how they operate. The companies defended their use of user location data gathered from millions of smartphones in responding to questions. Both Google and Apple cited increased consumer demand for location-based services that help wireless users find nearby businesses, such as restaurants, reports businessweek.com. Makers of applications that customers download to their smartphones share information including location data with downstream advertising and analytics companies, said Ashkan Soltani, an independent researcher and consultant. Disclosure about those practices is often inadequate or absent, he said. Guy Tribble, Apple’s vice president for software technology said, “Apple does not track users’ locations -- Apple has never done so and has no plans to do so.” Apple does not share “personally identifiable information for their marketing purposes without our customers’ explicit consent,” Tribble told lawmakers. Outside developers of applications for Android bear responsibility for how their software “collects and handles user data and the privacy disclosures” to users who opt into the service, Alan Davidson, Google’s director of public policy, said in prepared testimony. “Google does not control the behavior of third-party applications or how they handle location information and other user information that the third-party application obtains from the device, even though Google strongly encourages application developers to use best practices,” Davidson said.