How much transparency is enough?

January 27, 2010

Lotame has become the latest ad delivery company to provide consumers with a picture of the information stored about them for ad targeting, which they refer to as the Lotame Preferences Manager. The Lotame panel is much like Yahoo!’s and Google’s, in that the user sees and can customize their interests across a set of categories. And like Yahoo!, Lotame also feeds back your demographic information (age and gender).

Lotame’s approach is unique in that they actually show you an ad they select based on those interests. Unfortunately in my case, it doesn’t seem so well targeted (fearlessandfreckles.com?), but it’s a nice touch. We’ve added Lotame’s preferences manager to their entry in the PrivacyWidget database, so users who spot them on widgeted websites can go directly to this information.

Other targeting companies would be smart to jump on this trend quickly (even without further NAI, IAB or FTC encouragement). This is the single most powerful means to educate consumers about the benefits of targeted advertising and, as discussed in an earlier post, will become the platform for the value-exchange between ad-delivery companies, consumers and websites.

Some very important question remain. Most importantly, how deep do these disclosures need to go?  Why wouldn’t the consumer disclosures include all of the targeting characteristics that companies show to advertisers?

To see a stark contrast in approaches to this question, look no further than the ad preference managers offered by Yahoo! and Google. Yahoo!’s is the most robust in the industry, and gives the user information about search terms used to target ads, demographics and even location. Google offers only a list of interest topics, even though there’s little doubt they use additional factors for ad targeting.

With eight companies now providing consumer transparency and more on the way, we’ve entered a new phase of consumer transparency. Now the question becomes, is it misleading to show the consumer less information about their own characteristics than you show an advertiser wanting to target them?

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One Response to “How much transparency is enough?”

  1. Verbatim Says:

    In my opinion, no targeting means no counter-targeting as well! Good Heavens, use HOSTS file, Spybot, Spyblaster, and kick intrusive cookies by the root, no need of a helping hand 🙂


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