We May Not Want Standards But FTC May Give Us Some

The standards debate may be in full swing in our industry - but the decisions may be soon taken out of our hands if the FTC continues to define allowable advertising practices.

MediPost has a good overview of the developments of behavioral targeting and how they can be used. "Ad industry players are urging the FTC not to impose any new regulations — and also argue that the proposed voluntary guidelines are too restrictive," they reported.

Where this gets close to our industry comes from the people seeking greater regulations. "Privacy advocates, on the other hand, want to see rules that will require companies to honor Web users' preferences about whether they wish to be tracked online and to receive targeted ads," MediaPost notes.

If this occurs then search is on the horizon of these groups. And we better be aware of them if consumer advocacy groups are claiming they "want to see new rules, rather than rely on voluntary compliance with trade groups".

MediaPost quotes both Google and Microsoft at the end of the article and they have opposing views.

"Google, meanwhile, is especially concerned that the standards could affect search ads. In comments to the FTC, Google said it's testing personalized search results, and argued that search ads shouldn't be considered “behavioral” even when the ads displayed to users are based on their search history.

“We are currently experimenting in our Search service with providing ads based on both the current query and the immediately previous search,” Google wrote. “For example, a user who types ‘Italy vacation' into the Google search box might see ads about Tuscany or affordable flights to Rome. If the user were to subsequently search for ‘weather,' we might assume that there is a link between ‘Italy vacation' and ‘weather' and deliver ads regarding local weather conditions in Italy.”

Google rival Microsoft, on the other hand, said it supports the FTC's goals and that the proposed guidelines should be extended “to include the full array of online advertising activities.”

Funny about the Microsoft position given I have been in a pitch for increasing our budget where they used competitors advertising information to suggest other terms and ads..... anonymous of course but not hard to reverse engineer.

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.