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09/20/2011 Give consumers more control of online advertising

Opt-Out Online Advertising 

I was delighted to see an online ad the other day. While the ad was clearly relevant to me, what most intrigued me was a little line of text that said “Ad Choices.”


Choices? We have choices for online advertising? Obviously we don’t have enough.

That little line of text, though, seemed like a promise of future relevance, where I could imagine a day that I could turn off specific ads if I didn’t like the content or ad itself. A future of online advertising that gave more control to the people viewing the ads than the people making or serving them.

We’re not quite there yet. But the American Express ad on the NewYorkTimes.com site was an improvement. 


When I clicked on the Ad Choices, I received a number of options for information. I clicked on the first link and landed on the Evidon Web site.

Evidon runs the Digital Advertising Alliance’s self-regulatory program. One of the reasons programs like this exist is that the advertising industry is fighting tooth and nail to prevent federal regulations that mandate stuff like this.

The site does let you opt out of certain ad networks.

Screen shot 2011-09-20 at 3.06.49 PM

It provides a little widget called Ghostery that shows you all the activity happening behind the scenes when you visit a Web page. Ghostery is almost enough to make people scream for more government intervention. 

Clearly, this is a good start. We need more, though, and it’s not nearly widespread as it should be. The concept of retargeting (that is, cookieing me when I visit a site, so I can receive that sites ad) is often a complete failure. Here’s one example (of several) that I run into daily. 

I have a subscription to Fuze for Web conferences. It works well; I’m a pretty satisfied customer. Yet I’m inundated by retargeting ads from Fuze continuously. I long to shut them up. But there’s no easy way for me to do so. I see this with a number of brands I’m not interested in, or not interested in right now.


These ads make me want to buy less from these brands, not more. I’m considering canceling my Fuze account so that I’ll never get their ads again.

When consumers have more control over the online ads they see, and have the ability to turn off both networks and individual brands and creative, people will continue to ignore or even despise display advertising.

Of course, when they do have control that will put the pressure on us marketers to create great advertising. And lord knows we need that pressure.

In the mean time, initiatives like Evidon are a step in the right direction, but we need more than baby steps at this point. Otherwise, bring on the regulation.



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