Accountability Program Catches Dropped Ball in LifeLock OBA Campaign: Requires All Players in Ad Ecosystem to Work as a Team to Ensure Compliance

Arlington, VA – June 5, 2014 – The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program) has determined that a communications failure among LifeLock, Inc., Initiative, and AOL Advertising, Inc., allowed some personalized LifeLock ads to be served to consumers without the Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA) Advertising Option Icon.

The AdChoices Icon provides consumers with real-time notice when they receive an interest-based ad and a link to a choice mechanism through which they may opt-out. The LifeLock OBA campaign in question was managed by LifeLock’s digital marketing agency, Initiative. MediaMind Technologies, Inc.’s self-serve platform provided the ad-serving platform that Initiative used to manage the OBA campaign, and AOL Advertising served the AdChoices Icon during part of the campaign.

The Accountability Program discovered that a communications snafu among the companies caused the dropped AdChoices Icon and cautioned the industry that all parties must share responsibility for compliance with the cross-industry OBA Principles. “You can’t just assume that the other guy is taking care of compliance,” warned Genie Barton, Director of the Accountability Program.

The OBA Principles require that consumers receive enhanced notice and choice when served ads based on their interests as inferred from their prior web browsing activity. Companies most often provide this notice by placing the AdChoices Icon inside or near the ad. By clicking on the AdChoices Icon, a consumer can learn more about OBA and choose whether to participate in interest-based advertising.

The Accountability Program inquiries found that each of the companies had relied on one of the other companies to ensure the OBA campaign was conducted in accordance with industry best practices. Once notified, the parties promptly corrected the oversight.

LifeLock, the advertiser, assumed that its media agency, Initiative, was handling all compliance matters, and stated that it was unaware of its own independent responsibilities for complying with the OBA Principles. Initiative had initially instructed AOL Advertising to serve the AdChoices Icon on LifeLock’s behalf.

However, when LifeLock, on the advice of Initiative, transferred the campaign to the MediaMind self-serve platform, neither LifeLock nor Initiative instructed AOL Advertising to continue to serve the AdChoices Icon. AOL Advertising assumed that MediaMind had taken over that responsibility. However, MediaMind was providing only a self-serve platform. By contract, MediaMind required all third parties using its self-serve platform to comply with OBA Principles and offered instruction and technical assistance to its clients to make sure that the AdChoices Icon was served from the self-serve platform. MediaMind assumed that compliance was being provided as specified in its contract.

This is the third set of cases in which the Accountability Program has examined the interlocking responsibilities of the various parties in the advertising ecosystem to ensure compliance with the OBA Principles.

The parties agreed to implement the Accountability Program’s recommendations.  The Accountability Program recognized the positive way parties had responded to its call to work together as roles continue to evolve in the fluid and fast-moving world of online advertising.

The Accountability Program has successfully resolved 36 of the 37 formal inquiries it has brought to date, with one referral.

  1. The Accountability Program commended MediaMind for recognizing its responsibility to include clear language in its contracts requiring all users of its self-serve platform to comply with the OBA Principles, as well as to offer training in how to serve the AdChoices Icon, the steps recommended in an earlier Accountability Program decision. For those reasons, the MediaMind inquiry was closed as an administrative disposition.
  2. LifeLock also added the required real-time notice on each page of its website where third parties were collecting data for interest-based ads, bringing it into compliance with its obligations as a website publisher, as explained in the Accountability Program’s earlier Compliance Warning.

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