Corporate Eye

Advertising Options Icon Puts Positive Spin on Behavioral Targeting

Behavioral targeting is a lifeline for advertisers who want to make sure their ads are seen by the right audiences and drive the highest return on investment. However, consumers aren’t on board with behavioral targeting. They see it as an invasion of privacy. The Digital Advertising Alliance is trying to change that negative consumer perception with a new campaign, website, and “Advertising Options” icon pictured to the left.

The series of ads show a banner ad trying to find the right customers who actually want to find him, too. You can see one of those ads below.

The new Advertising Options icon will appear in all partner ads where behavioral targeting is used. The icon is described on the new website as follows:

“It’s a clear sign that companies are trying to make the Web ads you see better reflect your online interests. It’s there to keep you informed about how and why ads are being made more relevant for you.”

The new icon is being promoted as a way for consumers to control whether they see ads that use behavioral targeting or not. If a consumer sees the Advertising Options icon on an online ad, he can click on it to get information about the companies that provide “interest-based ads” on that website. If the consumer doesn’t want to see interest-based ads, he can click through to a special consumer choice page where he can opt out of interest-based ads from the companies that participate in the Advertising Options program. Consumers can also navigate directly to to review the status of their choices. Unfortunately, consumers won’t be able to opt out of behavioral targeting from advertisers that don’t participate in the Advertising Options icon program using the website or icon.

A clever series of YouTube videos further explains what the icon is, what interest-based advertising is, and how to use the icon. In the latter video, which you can watch below, an important message is hyped within the first 15 seconds — online advertising pays for all the free content and tools people get on the Internet. It’s another clever way to spin interest-based advertising as a positive thing for consumers.

Hundreds of advertisers are already participating in the program (you can see them all in the online directory here) and more are likely to join. The question is how effective the Digital Advertising Alliance’s attempt at spinning behavioral targeting into a benefit for consumers rather than a privacy violation will be. It’s a good idea but this is a battle that’s likely to continue for years to come. What do you think?

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.