“Your Ad Choices” and Self-Regulation in the Advertising Industry

On January 20 of this year, the Digital Advertising Alliance launched a campaign to inform the public about new forms of internet-based advertising, as well as ways consumers can protect their privacy online.  Called “Your A Choices,” it is one of the largest US-based campaigns about consumer privacy to-date.  Interestingly enough, “Your Ad Choices” was initiated around the same time the public debate surrounding SOPA and PIPA began to escalate.  Both these events have led consumers to think more about their rights online.

The “Your Ad Choices” logo first appeared in online advertisements last year.  It was introduced with one specific function: to serve as an advertising option button, which allows consumers to decide whether they want to watch online advertising based on their specific internet navigation activity.  This practice makes it possible for brands to offer their users ads that correspond as closely as possible with their interests – while also providing consumers the opportunity to opt-out.  This strategy is closely associated with the practice known as “Permission Marketing,” which is typically characterized by an emphasis on security, transparency, and user control, thereby promoting self-regulated best practices.

Self-Regulation in the Advertising Industry

The DAA is a strong advocate of self-regulation in digital advertising.  It develops and implements industry practices and rules of conduct, to which advertising professionals voluntarily submit.  But is there truly a need for such standards alongside economic regulation in the market, as well as legal regulation from the state?

Indeed, legislation is adequate to establish general principles (for example, that advertising should not be misleading); however, the protection offered in theory may not actually be available in practice – after all, the law is typically slow to respond to consumer protection complaints.  In contrast, self-regulation is specifically designed to proactively address the details and nuances of advertising content, and offers consumers a simple form of protection.  Self-regulation helps prevent actions that might cause harm or injury, as opposed to after-the-fact legal sanction, which seeks only to repair damage that has already taken place.  Thus, the form of self-regulation promoted by the DAA is not designed solely to benefit the online advertising industry, but also to protect the general public by incorporating the option of internet-based advertising.

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