ADOTAS – Although more or less protected from the nearly 100-degree (F) heat baking Manhattan outside the very air-conditioned Crowne Plaza Hotel, yesterday’s IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) Marketplace — Advertising Technology conference heated up in a figurative sense for a bit as IAB senior vice president and general counsel Mike Zaneis and digital supply chain solutions director Chris Mejia beamed in from the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Tracking Protection Working Group, taking place concurrently in Bellevue, Wash. The underlying question: Which way will the pendulum swing as W3C staff and members discuss how to approach Do Not Track initiatives, and what does this mean for advertisers and publishers? The general consensus on the dais and through the simulcast: If Do Not Track is handled ham-handedly, it means bad news.
“I’ve struggled hard to avoid the use of war metaphors,” said IAB vice president of advertising technology Steve Sullivan as he set up the discussion, and shortly before beginning to incorporate war metaphors into his speech. “Do Not Track, executed poorly, is a threat to our industry,” he said.
Reports from Zaneis and Mejia about the W3C talks were similarly grim. Both spoke of privacy hawks stonewalling the discussions. “I was hoping there would be a spirit of cooperation,” said Mejia, “but it’s been the opposite. We could have a solution in 60 to 90 days, but we’re not going to be out of the working group in the next year.”
And there’s more at stake in DNT than simply whether a user sees a targeted ad or not, Zaneis and Mejia explained. “This is not just about online behavioral targeting,” Zaneis said. “It’s about how data is collected on the internet.”
“Even security and fraud are on the table,” Mejia said, much later in the discussion. In the fight against the spread of malware and data theft, specialists use tracking technology in “finding the bad guys. That just doesn’t register to them,” he said of the privacy hardliners at W3C. “They’re willing to let that go for the sake of user privacy.”
Panelist Michael Weschsler, founder of TheLaw.com, weighed in on the effects of Do Not Track for publishers. “Do Not Track spells death to the small publisher,” he said. Small publishers, he explained, need the revenue that comes from advertising in order to survive, and he asserted Do Not Track would crush the effectiveness of online advertising for smaller publishers and deter advertisers from spending money on their inventory. “Excellent,” Sullivan responded. “Not excellent — terrible. Succinctly put.”
Vivaki Nerve Center senior vice president of partnerships Grace Liau, also on the panel, wondered aloud, “Does this mean the end of one-to-one advertising?” The advertising industry, she said, is “not a one-constituent ecosystem. Is it really about the consumer?” she asked about whatever benefits Do Not Track might have. In its place, she explained, the user might end up experiencing “a deluge of ads” instead of just a few targeted ads. And currently, she said, the alternatives to cookie tracking are too inefficient. “We tried IP targeting,” she said of the web’s earlier days, and even with geotargeting, she said, it’s still not as precise as using cookies. “I don’t see a solution,” she said.