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Marketers Test ‘Better Advertising’ Seal In Bid To Stave Off Regs

Just as ad agencies and marketers descend on the south of France this week for the 57th annual Cannes Lions advertising festival, advertisers are hoping to impress U.S. regulators back home that they can be trusted to use behavioral targeting without new rules. With help from former About Group head Scott Meyer’s Better Advertising, a dozen marketers including AT&T (NYSE: T), American Express and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), will unveil what they hope will be self-policing system designed to ease consumers fears over behavioral targeting and quell any stirrings in Washington DC to take a more active role in determining where, when and how online targeting is used, AdAge reports.

For the past three years, groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau has tried to keep the “self-policing” regime allowed by the Federal Trade Commission in place. But recent blow-ups, such as Facebook’s change in sharing policies — which are being amended to make privacy controls more clear — have tended to push legislators and regulators to threaten stricter rules about the way companies collect user data online.

The trial being launched this week by Better Advertising is one of six systems that are vying to become the online ad industry standard that wins the endorsement of the National Advertising Review Council, a division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. For the advertisers participating in Better Advertising’s program, an icon called the “power eye” is placed in the upper right-hand corner of ads. AdAge describes the icon as “a cross between an eye and power button.” When a cursor brushes over the icon, users are able to see all the data that was used to target the ad and can choose to opt-out of targeting by those companies in the future.

So far, Better Advertising has a pretty good chance of having its icon stand as the industry’s recognized “seal of approval,” as it has the backing of all the major ad holding companies, including IPG, Omnicom, WPP, Publicis Groupe and Havas.

The online ad industry considers targeting as a crucial tool that will help continue the the growth of the space and quickly close the spending gap with offline media. To get a sense of how much BT (NYSE: BT) contributes to online ad spending, eMarketer estimates U.S. spending on targeted ads will grow 21.6 percent in 2010, reaching $1.12 billion out of a total $25.1 billion this year. By 2014, U.S. spending on behaviorally targeted online ads will reach $2.6 billion, the online researcher predicts.

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