In a New Year, Still amid a Pandemic, Responsible, Relevant Digital Advertising Remains Strong as Direct-to-Consumer Grows and DAA Continues to Help with Brand-Consumer Engagement

February 1, 2021

Among profound circumstances, we are more focused than ever toward keeping advertisers and their customers engaging in transparent, trustworthy ways in 2021.

2020 may be in a rear-view mirror, but its impact on all of us – professionally as well as personally – remains significant. What we once might have taken for granted, soon became cherished: just the ability to wake up each day, be with our families, and go to work. Such an existence – anything but mundane – wasn’t available to everyone.

As we turn the page to 2021 and we look ahead with hope of returning to “normal,” we are guided by the direct-to-consumer changes consumers, publishers, brands, agencies, and ad tech all adapted to in the year that just passed. Just as you did, we narrowed our focus on what delivers the most value – for our participants, for consumers and the digital advertising ecosystem at large.

As we enter 2021, we do so in a way that reliably will continue to produce real-time transparency, halo effects for brands and publishers, and an acknowledgment of the significance the responsible ad-subsidized ecosystem produces.

Policy Matters – A Measure of State and Federal Activity

On policy matters, Congressional attention was focused on pandemic, stimulus, and a highly contested Election season. That said, there is bipartisan support for a federal privacy law, yet a few key differences exist between the parties on pre-emption of states and rights to private action as an enforcement mechanism. Some of this was outlined by Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA) at our DAA Virtual Summit 20: ADvolution. As we noted in our conversation with the Congresswoman, the transparency and safeguards that consumers demand and expect in a national data privacy law are foundational to the DAA Principles and the Privacy for America framework.

As the 117th Congress commences, DAA remains committed to the Privacy for America federal legislative framework, and a continued role for self-regulation as a potential safe harbor.

That doesn’t mean that we’ve been absent from the state-level debate. Among states, California kept the ad industry – DAA with our trade association founders– busy, with 2020 providing the necessity to respond to the State Office of Attorney General with responses to a second, third and fourth set of modifications and implementation guidance to CCPA. DAA has implemented a bevy of resources to help digital advertisers and their partners with their compliance journey – and introduced two new industry Opt Out tools for ad tech and publishers to employ to help give California consumers with “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” options. Dozens of DAA participating companies have implemented these tools.

Additionally, DAA responded to a Texas public inquiry on privacy protections related to advertising – while engaging with other states and entities (Washington, Maryland, California and National Conference of State Legislatures) on election law, disclosures and political advertising. The DAA Political Ads program remains a model that states continue to consider as they adopt their own transparency and accountability expectations, with Washington State among those open to icon-led disclosures.

Not all policy is set in government circles. We’ve also been addressing technology companies that are making such decisions that affect the delivery of relevant advertising. DAA is acting as a convener for the Privacy, Policy and Legal working group of the newly formed Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media.

DAA Principles – Independent Enforcement with New Insights

During the past year, DAA updated its implementation guidance for First Parties in both browser- and mobile app-based platforms, incorporating CCPA sections.

We also published our fourth edition of Enforcement in Action casebook – reflecting enforcement actions undertaken by Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the Digital Advertising Accountability Program (DAAP) of BBB National Programs through the end of 2019. As this year will mark the 10th anniversary of DAA Principles enforcement – there was no taking the foot off the pedal in accountability actions in what transpired last year. ANA fielded nearly 6400 complaints from consumers and businesses, with more than 3,200 lodged regarding activity on smartphones.

DAAP fielded 3800 queries and undertook 10 public enforcement actions – five of which dealt with precise location data among other topics. Major brands were counted in the case work (web sites with more than 25 million visits in six months), as well as apps that have user installations collectively of more than 600 million. Political ads were also the subject of both ANA and DAAP enforcement activities.  These 2020 enforcement actions will be further analyzed in our next edition of Enforcement in Action.

Consumer Place Increasing Value in Mobile and Digital Advertising

DAA updated its 2016 survey of consumers related to the value of content and services financed by advertising. Their assignment of value has grown by more than $200/year – to more than $1400/year – from 2016 to 2020. That’s not all:

  • The vast majority (85 percent) say they would reduce their online and mobile activities if they had to pay hundreds of dollars a year for the content and services they currently get for free.
  • Four in five respondents (80 percent) say they would be more likely to purchase a mobile phone offering more free apps over a comparable phone with fewer free apps.
  • Nearly all the respondents (93 percent) say free Internet content such as news, weather, email, and blogs is very or somewhat important to them.
  • A large majority (84 percent) say they prefer the current ad-supported Internet where most content and services are free over a paid Internet with no advertising.

Such findings serve us well as we debate public policy, and explain the role that advertising plays in funding such democratically vital functions as independent journalism, local information, competition, consumer discovery, and diversity of content. Clearly, the consumer trust-and-value exchange are why the DAA program continues to thrive.

We also introduced new consumer videos to help explain our choice tools to consumers in late 2019 and 2020 – in English and Spanish, respectively – generating tens of thousands of views last year. We also have initiated processes to help make sure our digital presence and choice tools are in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the latter a continuing effort as we enter 2021.

A DAA Summit Like No Other – As We Examine What’s Next?

Amid the pandemic, we took both our 2020 event (ADvolution) – and our forthcoming 2021 Summit (What’s Next?, date to be set) from physical to virtual events. I think it’s noteworthy that in having to go virtual n 2020, we may have lost the camaraderie of a face-to-face event – but we nonetheless engaged just as many participants, and even more if you count all our Webinars. Most importantly, we took on important forward topics, among them identity management post-cookie and privacy-safe engagement in a streaming world.  

We love the feedback we received from our Virtual 20 event, among them: “Congrats on an amazing event. I’ve been to a few online summits now and this was by far the best executed, congratulations. Very useful content throughout.”

We are now starting our program planning for the June 2021 event – please stay tuned.

Hang On: It’s 2021 – Keep a Mask On, Get the Vaccine, and Let’s Keep Moving Forward

So as we enter this New Year, among a pandemic, a new Administration and a new Congress, we are redoubling efforts to protect relevance in marketing and brand engagement, while ensuring consumers receive the privacy transparency and control they have come to expect.

We will continue to improve DAA Principles compliance resources and processes – with new onboarding and certification guidance. We will continue to support our global sister organizations, and explore regions and geographies for expansion.

Preparing for “what’s next” as well as “what’s now” serves to bolster consumer trust, protect brand-consumer engagement, and create value where responsible data collection is deployed to enable more relevant content and messaging.  A tall order, yes – but one where a decade of proof stands firm, thanks to your participation and support.

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