Digital Ad Alliance Boss We Can Police Ourselves

Digital Ad Alliance Boss: We Can Police Ourselves

5 minute read
Tom Murphy avatar

The biggest challenge in mobile marketing may not be what the technology cando, but how the benefits of data-driven ads affect the privacy of the consumersthey target.

Much has been said about the "creepy" factor of compiling information about your kids, location, financing and health. At the same time,studies show 70 percent of consumers prefer to see ads that align with theirpersonal interest. 

Lou Mastria, executive director of the DigitalAdvertising Alliance, has been at the eye of the privacy hurricane for yearswhile working in public affairs, government and the ad industry. He also holds amasters degree in public policy. In his current role, he reflects hisindustry-backed group's push for self-regulation of advertising practices. He's had plenty of success.

Setting Benchmarks


Under his leadership, the group has released principles to establishbest practices and has won praise from government regulatory agencies like the FederalTrade Commission.

We spoke with Mastria at his group's second annual summit in San Francisco,asking him about DAA's mission, its own efforts to police the industry and itsrole in educating consumers about their right to opt out of digital ads.

Murphy: How old is the DAA, what's your main mission and how do you differfrom other groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau?

Mastria: Our main mission is to provide a self-regulatory answer forbalancing the needs of consumer privacy with the need to ad-fund the Internet.We have to balance that every single day. IAB, DMA [Direct MarketingAssociation] and others actually sit on our board, but they're really tradeassociations. We're a self-regulatory body.

Companies don't just join somehow the DAA, they certify to be part of the DAA.They actually have to abide by the principles of the DAA code, which includes transparency,control -- there are seven principles they have to abide by -- including thepolicing of their actions. Importantly, while we do have companies thatparticipate with DAA in this way, we also take the position that we police theentire ecosystem. Whether you're a participant or not, it doesn't matter. Ifyou're doing interest-basedadvertising, we're looking to see if you'recompliant or not.

Murphy: If they're not members and not compliant, what do you do?

Learning Opportunities

Mastria: We've had 37 compliance actions publicly announced so far inthe two-and-a-half years the compliance program has been in place. We typicallyput out a press release saying 'So-and-so is non-compliant.' The reality is thatmost companies want to be compliant, so once there is an issue brought to theirattention, they typically take action to come into compliance. We've only had torefer one company to the federal authorities. We retain that right, no matterwhat. If someone doesn't come into compliance, we do turn it over to the FTC, orin the case of the one company, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Thereality is that companies, as I said, want to be compliant. They see howstrategically important it is to their financial future.

Murphy: That leads into my next question. You have a very goodrelationship with the FTC. I imagine you'd both rather see the industry policingitself than see the government policing it.

Mastria: I think we offer a method for the government to rely on us topolice the industry. We're not just a set of books or a set of codes. Weactually enforce it, day in and day out. Those 37 actions in two-and-a-halfyears touched 170 companies just in those actions. Plus, we talk to members, wehelp guide them into compliance. Yeah, we think we offer a credible way forgovernment to say, 'Hey,look, we have missions. There is only so muchbandwidth we can devote to anything. It's great to have a partner in the privatesector who is actually watching this part of the space for us.'I don'tknow if they would say it exactly that way, but it's certainly the way we thinkabout it.

Murphy: You have a new app coming out this fall. Very briefly, could youtell us what it does, what your goal is and how you plan to market that to theconsumer?

Mastria: The app is going to be a free download from the two major appstores in the fall. It will give consumers the ability to control data that'sbeing collected across apps to deliver relevant advertising. So consumers willhave an extra layer of transparency control in their phone, available to them atany time to see, 'Oh, there are certain companies sending messagesto me,'and they can opt out of any or all of those companies with basically one click.

In terms of marketing it to consumers, we'll be doing a big rollout, as youmight expect, with press releases in the fall. Beyond that, part of our missionincludes consumer education. We already did one big campaign in 2012-2013. Weran it for 14 or 15 months. We'll probably undertake a similar action shortlyafter the launch. Right now, we're kind of in a transformative state -- which isprobably where a lot ofmedia and marketing companies are, too -- betweendesktop and mobile. We wanted to wait until we got the mobile piece out so wecan say 'Your choices are against all of these streams. It's not just onestream.'

Title image by Philip Bird /