Summit Snapshot: Data 4 Good – The Ad Council, Federation for Internet Alerts Deploy Data for Vital Public Safety Initiatives

September 1, 2021

Big Idea: Responsibly collected data informs more than just relevant digital and mobile advertising and commerce – but also some of the most important socially responsible concerns and opportunities of our time.

Consumer data, analytics, and relevant advertising are each and all a collection of powerful tools with unimaginable potential. Such perspectives were on full display at the recent Digital Advertising Alliance Virtual Summit 21, where the Ad Council and Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA) both showcased their respective “data for good” initiatives: the Ad Council to influence Americans to get their COVID-19 vaccinations, and FIA to help safely recover more than 2,000 missing and exploited children through its internet and mobile alerts system across the world and in over a dozen dynamically rendered languages in partnership with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

A Most Vital Campaign of Our Time:  Getting Vaccinated to Curb or End a Pandemic         

Since the 1940s, the Ad Council has used its messaging prowess to promote countless social good campaigns, from gun safety education, to forest fire prevention, to lung cancer screening, among others. With the advance of technology, the Ad Council has been able to broaden its goals, spearheading up to forty campaigns at any one time.

Halting COVID by encouraging Americans to undergo vaccinations has been coined “the largest and most ambitious public health initiative in the history of the US,” according to the Ad Council’s own Senior Vice President Anne Deo. Convincing millions – and persuading the reluctant -- to get themselves vaccinated is a difficult undertaking, but armed with facts and data, the Ad Council identifies vaccination rates among different demographics, public opinions, common doubts, and the most effective means of message delivery.

Image of The Ad Council's Anne Deo
Anne Deo introduces the Ad Council’s COVID mission at DAA Summit 21

“[W]e are fielding a large quantitative survey with Ipsos to understand trends and attitudes and behaviors around COVID-19 vaccinations,” Deo said. The data shows that despite significant gains, “it’s reaching a plateau. As of the end of May, approximately 64 percent of American adults have been vaccinated, either partially or fully, or intend to get vaccinated soon. Fourteen percent are not planning to get vaccinated, and the remaining 20 percent comprise this ‘wait and see’ segment, which is our primary campaign target.” (The Ad Council, 2021)

Late July research from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 67 percent of adults have been vaccinated, and the ‘wait and see’ segment is now 10% of the surveyed population. Meanwhile, there has been no change to the ‘definitely not’ category. These data suggest a positive change in vaccine perception, though work remains to be done.

A breakdown of the Ad Council’s Get Vaccinated campaign

For evidence of the safety and efficacy of COVID vaccines, each advertisement ushers viewers to, an Ad Council website designed to address FAQs on the COVID vaccine. Site activity is tracked, Deo said, and used to identify “some of the questions that continue to rise to the top, such as ‘what are the benefits of getting vaccinated?’ ‘What should I expect after getting the vaccine?’ and ‘How do I get vaccinated?’”

By reviewing trends in questions, the Ad Council can assess how people are feeling and thinking, and tailor their messaging accordingly, as well as emphasize moments that citizens have missed since the onset of the pandemic – moments such as taking the kids to see grandma in this Ad Council commercial.

FIA Alerts Helps to Find Busloads of Children

Founded in 2011, the FIA emerged from a desire of independent ad tech companies to help the AMBER Alert System and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), among other public safety priorities. The federation recognized an opportunity to join forces among various tech companies and media outlets to help and recover children on an unprecedented scale with incredible reach -- and near instantaneous responsiveness made possible through digital communication.

The FIA’s Jason Bier

The end result, ever-improving, is a “hub that provides fast, robust, scalable alerts from anywhere in the world,” said FIA founder and Executive Director Jason Bier. The hub processes these alerts and disperses them to communication partners. “In milliseconds they’re reading billions of intent messages across browsers all over the world, in different languages, and provide revenue for content,” Bier said. It is these publishers that, with a diverse suite of technologies, send the alerts where they are most needed in a visually stimulating way.

The service is operable by anyone, free to use, and requires very little human input thanks to advanced artificial intelligence, Bier reported to DAA Summit participants. “These messages can be read, created, delivered, updated, and canceled within milliseconds,” always able to provide the most current information when it counts.

Since 2019, the brainchild of the FIA and ICMEC which has come to be known as the “Global Missing Children Engine,” or GMCNgine, now operates in 32 countries, Bier reported. The GMCNgine is well-intended, but the most important question is whether or not it works, and how well. “One [school] bus has seventy kids.” Bier again. “But it wasn’t just one [bus]. It was thirty. Two thousand kids have been recovered… across four continents... with 2.7 million media impressions per alert… [and] a 60-percent recovery rate.” A reason to be prideful – but one too which reflects innovation and responsible data collection working hand in hand for the safety and betterment of children.

More than 2000 Missing Children Recovered with FIA Assistance
Bier discusses the results of the FIA directive regarding missing – and found – children.

According to Bier, while the FIA has been evolving for ten years, this is only the beginning. The federation’s participants strive to expand their reach, increase their number of media impressions, and do everything that technology allows for them to pursue this mission.

“And it’s all because we’ve allowed the internet to flourish, we’ve allowed it to innovate, and we’ve had the DAA by our side every single time to explain the importance of what we’re doing, to have a framework in place for privacy that puts it into context with other important human rights.”

This is true – DAA is inspired by these examples from the Ad Council and FIA, and recognize the positive change that can be made in our world when we collect, analyze and use “Data for Good.” In time, we may have a pandemic behind us, and so many more recovered children, as continuing proof.  Beyond the Ad Council and FIA, I also want to extend our thanks to the 4As – among them President and Chief Executive Officer Marla Kaplowitz and Executive Vice President for Government Relations Alison Pepper -- who have helped us bring such examples to our Summit program in recent years.

Thank you to Paul Lozaw, summer associate with DAA, for his editorial support with this post.

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