What brands need to know about OBA

Rules governing how ad networks notify consumers on the use of online behavioural advertising (OBA) to deliver ads come into effect today, with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ensuring their implementation.


The rules require ad networks employing OBA to ensure consumers are aware of the use of the technology, primarily through the use of the online AdChoices icon in the corner of online display ad formats (see above image). The rules also require ad networks to ensure consumers can easily opt-out of receiving ads in this way.

Although the new rules more directly concern the conduct of ad networks, brands using this method of targeting must also prepare for their onset. Marketing Week outlines five things brands need to know about the changes.

1) What is online behavioural advertising (OBA)?
Targeting ads using OBA involves collecting information from web browsers using cookies. This can let an ad network serve an user with a more ‘relevant’ ad based on their browsing history.

Opting out of OBA means web browsing information is not collected and then used to deliver advertising. Consumers will still see ads on websites as before, but they won’t be tailored according to their earlier browsing behaviour.

2) What role will the ASA play in the regulation of OBA?
The ASA now requires that consumers are offered the choice of opting out of being targeted in this way. Plus it will also make efforts to bolster consumers’ understanding of the use of OBA to target ads with a jargon-free ‘how to’ guide on its website.

Consumers can now complain about use of OBA to the ASA through its normal complaints channels.

The Information Commissioner remains responsible for looking into complaints about the issue of consent, i.e. the placement of cookies on a computer’s web browser. This means the ASA is unable to look into complaints about cookie consent.

3) How will the ASA be able to ensure compliance?
The UK CAP Code will apply to OBA. Ad networks signing up to the code agree to abide by ASA rulings. The ASA can “name and shame” non-compliant networks and remove the AdChoices icon from the network.

CAP can also issue a targeted ad alert flagging up non-compliant ad networks to digital agencies, placing further pressure to comply with the rules. Signatories to the CAP Code may also have their trading seal, which signifies their compliance with the framework, removed.

4) What can brands do to minimise the negative impact upon them?
Brands should keep track of which ad networks they and their agencies work with, as well as who they are affiliated to, and ensure these parties are signed-up to the UK CAP Code.

While, the ASA can place sanctions on the ad network and not the brand whose ad it carries, there is still the risk of guilt by association. It is also believed the ‘naming and shaming’ process will help ensure advertisers bring pressure to bear on offending networks behind the scenes.

The ASA will also rely on the participation of brands and advertisers when trying to track down the potentially offending ad networks when investigating consumer complaints.

5) Do these rules apply to mobile devices?
The rules do not currently apply to mobile phones or other handheld devices, such as e-readers and tablets. Although it is envisaged that the rules will extended to mobile phones and other handheld devices in time.



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