It was always going to be risky to go to Sofia, Bulgaria for a meeting of Europe’s advertising self-regulatory organizations (SROs) as an unspellable Icelandic volcano was spewing ash over northern Europe. But Yahoo!’s International Privacy Director, Justin Weiss, our Policy Director for International Ad Policy, Deepti Rohatgi, and I took the gamble and found it well worth taking.
The SROs were gathered in Sofia to share their experiences of their recent work on digital advertising, including online ads and email. For some, which have historically worked on traditional media, such as print, public display, television, and radio, this is a fairly new area of activity, but there is clearly a great deal of expertise already, even in countries where advertising self-regulation is very new. Most impressive of all was the way in which they are able to share best practice and compare experiences on a continental scale, across myriad cultures and languages.
We were invited to introduce them to something even newer: online behavioural advertising (OBA). Justin’s explained the concept and the basics of the technology and the business model, pointing out that OBA produces ads that are less annoying to consumers and of greater economic value to advertisers. We spent a good amount of time talking about the privacy implications of OBA and what this meant for self-regulation, before Justin took them through the OBA self-regulatory efforts that are underway in the U.S..
For many, privacy is an aspect of advertising that they had rarely dealt with before. And certainly enforcement of self-regulatory commitments on OBA will entail some types of work that SROs have not traditionally done (e.g. audits of web companies’ IT processes and systems). So the topic was new and exciting to the SROs, who will be key partners in the development of credible OBA self-regulation in Europe.
Oh, and we all made it back home to Washington, San Francisco, and Brussels, respectively. Eventually. But there are worse places to be stuck than one of Europe’s capital cities!
director, public policy