GroupM to Adopt Opt-Out System for Online Targeting

WPP's Buying Unit Will Recommend Better Advertising's 'I' Icon for Behavioral Ads

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NEW YORK ( -- Earlier this month, government officials chided the online ad industry for not moving quickly enough to offer consumers the option to block marketers from tracking and targeting them online. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz said that while the industry has taken important steps on online privacy, "We'd like to see them move faster."

In response to that call, GroupM, the media buying unit of advertising holding company WPP, plans to begin complying with the industry's proposed self-regulatory program in the first quarter of next year.

"This is a signal that we're moving on the market very quickly," said John Montgomery, chief operating officer of GroupM Interaction, citing Mr. Leibowitz's recent concerns. "We're the first major agency to get on board and get to our clients a good seamless solution."

The media buying company is working with Better Advertising's software platform to comply with the industry's self-regulatory program. The industry's solution includes an icon that will appear on ads leading consumers to an opt-out page. According to Mr. Montgomery, WPP agency Ogilvy had a hand in designing the icon that will soon appear on banner and box ads across the web.

GroupM plans to offer Better Advertising's opt-out icon to its list of around 200 clients that rely on behavioral targeting. Some of the firm's clients include AT&T, Unilever and Dell.

"We believe in the principals that the coalition put forward, particularly on notification and education," Mr. Montgomery said, referring to the coalition of advertising industry groups collectively known as the Digital Advertising Alliance that has put in place a consumer program called About Ads that allows people to keep marketers from collecting any information on their web-surfing habits.

But the Obama administration does not think these efforts at self regulation are eough. U.S. Commerce Department Secretary Gary Locke issued a report on digital privacy that calls for the creation of a Privacy Policy Office within the Obama government to help set down a set of "codes" for the industry, which the FTC would enforce. "Self-regulation without stronger enforcement is not enough," Mr. Locke said. Short of agreeing on a set of baseline principles, the Obama administration would be looking for a legislative solution, a situation the industry is looking to avoid.

Both the FTC and Commerce have issued separate reports on how digital privacy should be regulated, underscoring the fact that online commerce has come under the political spotlight.

Founded by former CEO Scott Meyer as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Warburg Pincus, Better Advertising was recently selected as the initial provider to the ad industry's self-regulatory program that allows consumers to opt out of being targeted by specific marker's and ad networks.

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