Bill recently wrote a piece in iMediaConnection, where he talks about the state of behavioral advertising:

  • The software must never be installed without the explicit consent of the consumer. That means showing a short, clear notice outside the EULA (“Here’s the deal…”) that says what the software will do. Download Google’s toolbar for a good example.
  • If the software transmits people’s browsing histories and shares that behavioral data with third parties, then that needs to be stated up front (for the record, WhenU software doesn’t do that, so we don’t state that in our notification screen).
  • It also means that the EULA and privacy policy (the links go to ours) are as short and as free of legalese as possible.
  • There should be no affiliate distribution because it’s impossible to police in order to make sure that all downloads are permission-based.
  • Marketing (banner-based or otherwise) should be carefully monitored, and Active-X ads or advertise on sites aimed at children just shouldn’t happen.
  • The software must be extremely easy to uninstall and shouldn’t slow down the computer’s performance.
  • Finally, consumers must be constantly reminded of the source of the ads (to combat what iMedia’s executive editor Brad Berens has aptly dubbed “application amnesia”). At WhenU, we do this by putting our logo — and the logo of the software with which it came bundled — on the “wrapper” of every ad, along with our toll-free number for live help.

Now, check this out:

Some have posited that if complete disclosure were provided, no one would consent, but that hasn’t been WhenU’s experience — in fact since I became CEO a year ago and we upgraded to dirt simple notification screens, downloads from some of our long-term distribution partners have reached historically high levels.

Similarly, you might think that putting a toll-free help number on every ad would require an outsourced call center, but volume has been low enough to be handled easily in-house by two staff members. Eliminating un-policeable affiliate distribution is a no-brainer.

The goal is to build a highly qualified audience of people who know what they are getting; if they got it by mistake or they change their minds later, we must make it easy to leave.

Alex Eckelberry