The trade association for online and mobile advertising, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) UK, has launched an awareness campaign to give consumers greater control over targeted online ads.

The IAB UK branch is the first in Europe to roll out the campaign and the new initiative aims to drive consumer awareness, provide information and enable consumer choice regarding online ‘interest-based’ or ‘behavioural’ advertising.

Designed by Mediacom, the ‘unzipped’ campaign features the blue triangular ‘AdChoices’ icon; which has been appearing on behavioural ads in the UK and EU markets for more than a year. The icon is part of a pan-European self-regulatory initiative – supported by the European Commission and the UK government

When the icon is clicked, it links to a landing page explaining the role of online advertising and how privacy can be safeguarded. The landing page also features a short video helping people to understand ‘interest-based’ advertising.

It also links to information about how data is collected and used to serve these types of ads and ways consumers can control this, including via the Your Online Choices website.

Consumer Control

Director of regulatory affairs at IAB UK, Nick Stringer, said people should be aware of how advertising helps to pay for the content and services consumers receive for little or no cost, and interest-based ads are more relevant to the user’s likely interests.

He also stressed that interest-focused advertising is based upon the sites previously visited, and not on any personal information that identifies the user.

Stringer said once consumers are aware of these points and know they are in control, they are far more open to interest-based ads.

IAB UK and digital media business, ValueClick, carried out research about online privacy among UK consumers in March 2012. It found that people understand the need for advertising, would like to see relevant ads but want transparency and control over the information collected and used.

Ed Vaizey MP, minister for culture, communications and creative industries, supports the EU-wide industry self-regulation and says it only enhances transparency and consumer choice over online behavioural advertising.

“I particularly welcome this European advertising campaign – with the UK leading the way, to promote greater awareness of the ad icon which can empower consumers to control their data,” Vaizey said.

Relevant Advertising

The UK is the first EU country to go live in what will be a pan-European campaign – coordinated by Velvet Rock Communications. The UK campaign will initially run for six to 10 weeks. Ireland and Germany will join later in June and campaigns in other EU countries will start in the autumn.

Stringer added: “The ultimate aim of the campaign is that by giving people better information and more control, they make more informed decisions. It also enables relevant advertising to support innovation on the internet which helps provide the ever-increasing range of online services people rely on so heavily in their daily lives.”

A licence to use the icon needs to be purchased and fees from this are used to help run and administer the self- regulatory initiative in Europe.