This week hundreds of policy makers, legal professionals and advertisers gather in Washington, DC for the hundredth anniversary of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). We gather not only to celebrate a century of achievement, but also to shape the future of advertising.
These days, most advertising growth is occurring online, and for good reason: Online advertising presents remarkable efficiencies including better targeting, improved measurement, and increased return on investment. Yet there are challenges, particularly when networks of intermediaries place ads through convoluted relationships, and all the more so when small advertisers cannot effectively negotiate terms dictated by advertising powerhouses. The result is a troubling mess of ads gone wrong - advertisers charged in ways they didn't fairly agree to, and on terms they didn't meaningfully accept.
But advertisers, legal experts, and policy makers can prevent online advertising from becoming a wild west. I propose five specific rights advertisers should demand as they buy online placements:
- An advertiser's right to know where its ads are shown. It is nonsense to pay for ad space without knowing where the ad will appear; sites vary too much in user quality and context. Even for "blind buys," advertisers should get enough information to determine whether a given site qualifies to show an ad. Anything less undermines accountability - inviting fraudulent sites to attack advertisers' budgets. And with all manner of fraud - from spyware pop-ups to invisible banners to adult sites slipping into "brand-friendly" networks - advertisers need to be wary.
Impingements on these rights are particularly troubling for their effects on small businesses. Few small business can afford to hire lawyers to pursue their interests. And small businesses lack the purchasing power to negotiate their way out of unwanted placements or harsh contract terms. As small businesses move online, they deserve protections at least as strong as what they've enjoyed for decades in traditional advertising channels. These rights would be a valuable step forward.
For an extended version of this article visit: http://www.benedelman.org/advertisersrights/