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The rapid evolution of digital media has created new opportunities and avenues for advertising and marketing. Fuelled by the proliferation of devices to access digital media, this has led to the exponential growth of digital advertising.

Digital media growth is estimated at 4.5 trillion online ads served annually with digital media spend at 48% growth in 2010. An increasing portion of advertising stems from businesses employing Online Behavioural Advertising (OBA) to tailor advertising for Internet users. Though an innovative resource, OBA raises concern with regards to consumer privacy and data protection. Such implications are important considerations for responsible communications.

The ICC addresses these issues in the Consolidated ICC Code of Advertising and Marketing Communication Practice, with a chapter on digital interactive media. It includes the first globally applicable rules for OBA. The Code provides ethical guidelines to protect consumers and encourages businesses to achieve socially responsible standards.

The Code has integrated rules that apply to marketing communications using digital interactive media throughout the guidelines. There is also an entirely updated section dealing with issues specific to digital interactive media techniques and platforms. Code self-regulation on use of digital interactive media includes:

  • Clear and transparent mechanisms to enable consumers to choose not to have their data collected for advertising or marketing purposes;
  • Clear indication that a social network site is commercial and is under the control or influence of a marketer;
  • Limits are set so that marketers communicate directly only when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the consumer has an interest in what is being offered;
  • Respect for the rules and standards of acceptable commercial behaviour in social networks and the posting of marketing messages only when the forum or site has clearly indicated its willingness to receive them;
  • Special attention and protection for children.

Online Behavioural Advertising (OBA)

As of 2011, the Code addresses responsibility in the use of online behavioural targeting in the delivery of advertising.

Definition: OBA refers to the practice of collecting information about a user’s online activity over time, on a particular device and across different, unrelated websites, in order to deliver advertisements tailored to that user’s interests and preferences.

Code guidance on use of OBA by website operators or third parties on a non-affiliated website includes:

  • Clear and conspicuous notice regarding if and how OBA data collection is used. Notice should include the type of data collected and the purpose for collecting it;
  • Having an easy-to-use mechanism to let consumers decide about the collection and use of their data for OBA purposes;
  • Obtaining explicit consumer consent for OBA in all cases of collecting and using data via technologies or practices intended to harvest that data from all or almost all websites visited by a particular computer or device across multiple web domains;
  • Obtaining explicit consumer consent for creation and use of OBA segments relying on sensitive data;
  • Maintenance of appropriate physical, electronic and administrative security and data protection safeguards;
  • Prohibition of segments designed to target children 12 and younger.

In addition to the guidance offered in the Code, ICC brings experts together to consider new issues raised by digital marketing techniques or platforms to help inform and advise policymakers on global business perspectives and recommendations.

The Working Group on Digital Media developed a Resource Guide for Self-Regulation of Online Behavioural Advertising which is a useful companion piece to help companies and trade associations self-regulation online behavioural advertising (OBA) using the global principles published in the Code.