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Accountability Program Instructs Advertiser, Agency and Platform to Work Together to Deliver AdChoices Icon

11/20/2013

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23andMe, 3Q Digital and MediaMath Vow Better Coordination to Give Consumers Real-Time Notice and Choice in Tailored Ad Campaigns


Arlington, VA – November 20, 2013 –
The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program) today released three decisions resolving inquiries into whether an online interest-based advertising campaign for 23andMe, Inc. (23andMe) provided Transparency and Consumer Control as required under the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA Principles).

The Accountability Program opened formal compliance inquiries with three companies23andMe, 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates) and MediaMath, Inc. (MediaMath)—after observing that ads in a 23andMe OBA campaign were being served without the Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA) Advertising Option Icon (AdChoices Icon). The AdChoices Icon provides consumers with real-time notice when they receive an interest-based ad and a link to a choice mechanism through which they may easily opt out. The 23andMe OBA campaign in question was fully managed by 23andMe’s digital marketing agency, 3Q Digital. MediaMath provided on a self-serve basis the demand-side platform that 3Q Digital used to manage the OBA campaign.

The OBA Principles require that consumers receive enhanced notice and choice when served ads based on their interests as inferred from their prior Web browsing activity. Companies most often provide this notice by placing the AdChoices Icon inside or near the ad. By clicking on the AdChoices Icon, a consumer can learn more about OBA and choose whether to participate in interest-based advertising.

The Accountability Program inquiries found that each of the companies involved in the campaign had relied on one of the other companies to ensure the OBA campaign was conducted in accordance with industry best practices. 23andMe, as the advertiser, assumed that its media agency, 3Q Digital, was handling compliance matters, while 3Q Digital assumed that MediaMath was serving the AdChoices Icon. MediaMath in turn, while providing information about OBA compliance to its clients, thought that because it was offering its platform on a self-serve basis, 3Q Digital would assume responsibility for serving the AdChoices Icon. Each of the companies conceded that it had made no efforts to obtain confirmation from the company on which it relied that the OBA campaign at issue was compliant.

“These cases once again illustrate how important it is that all companies involved in an interest-based advertising campaign work together to ensure that consumers receive enhanced notice and choice whenever they are served an ad tailored to their interests,” said Genie Barton, Council of Better Business Bureaus Vice President and Director of the Accountability Program. “Both advertisers and consumers benefit from personalized advertising. Consumers receive ads that provide them with useful information about products and services they may like, and advertisers get their messages more efficiently and economically before customers. The OBA Principles improve this relationship by giving consumers greater understanding and control over tailored advertising. This builds trust and consumer engagement with the companies that support these industry standards.”

The Accountability Program is pleased with the outcome of these inquiries. Each company committed to shouldering responsibility for ensuring that the lapse in compliance does not recur and to working together and with their clients to educate them about the OBA Principles. The Accountability Program commends each company for working diligently with the Accountability Program to expeditiously resolve the miscommunications that resulted in the non-compliant ads and for their rapid actions to bring the OBA campaign into compliance with the OBA Principles.

Decisions:

23andMe:  23andMe, a company that provides informational genetic testing services, did not know about the DAA Self-Regulatory Principles and therefore had not taken steps to ensure that its interest-based ads and its website provided the appropriate enhanced notice and choice. Upon learning that its retargeted ads did not comply with the OBA Principles, the company quickly worked with 3Q Digital, which was managing its ad campaign, to include the DAA AdChoices Icon on all its interest-based ads. 23andMe also revamped its website to include an enhanced notice link on every page of its website on which it was permitting third-party data collection for OBA. The company has also added the requisite statement of adherence to the DAA Self-Regulatory Principles to its website.

3Q Digital:  3Q Digital, a digital marketing agency, managed all aspects of the 23andMe OBA campaign at issue. The company did not understand that it had an obligation to ensure that enhanced notice and choice were provided on interest-based ads it oversaw. Upon learning of the oversight, the company took immediate action to bring the 23andMe interest-based ads into compliance with the OBA Principles and to ensure all the other OBA campaigns it manages also comply with the OBA Principles. It also committed to educating its clients about the benefits of complying with the OBA Principles.

MediaMath:  MediaMath provided the self-service demand-side platform used by 3Q Digital to manage and run the 23andMe OBA campaign in question. MediaMath, an early adopter of the OBA Principles, ensures all OBA campaigns are in compliance with the OBA Principles when providing its fully managed services, where it manages all aspects of a client’s campaign. However, when a client uses its self-service platform, the company requires the client to manually enable the enhanced notice and choice mechanism available within the MediaMath platform. Upon receiving the Accountability Program’s letter of inquiry, MediaMath sent a reminder to all its self-service clients about their obligations under the DAA Self-Regulatory Principles and detailed how to enable to AdChoices Icon to be automatically included in all OBA served through the MediaMath platform. The company also revised its onboarding materials to better educate its self-service clients about the notice and choice requirements of the OBA Principles and the benefits of compliance with the DAA’s industry standards.

The Accountability Program’s inquiries were conducted under Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program Procedures which are available at http://www.asrcreviews.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/OBA-Procedures2.pdf

About Advertising Industry Self-Regulation: ASRC establishes the policies and procedures for advertising industry self-regulation, including the National Advertising Division (NAD), Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), National Advertising Review Board (NARB), Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) and Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program). The self-regulatory system is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Self-regulation is good for consumers. The self-regulatory system monitors the marketplace, holds advertisers responsible for their claims and practices and tracks emerging issues and trends. Self-regulation is good for advertisers. Rigorous review serves to encourage consumer trust; the self-regulatory system offers an expert, cost-efficient, meaningful alternative to litigation and provides a framework for the development of a self-regulatory solution for emerging issues.

To learn more about supporting advertising industry self-regulation, please visit us at: www.advertisingselfregulation.org.

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