The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) is set to introduce new rules which will impact on the way companies collect data for the purposes of targeted online marketing.

From 1 September 2013, the use of Online Behavioural Advertising (OBA) will be curtailed by new ASAI rules that require increased transparency and choice for consumers.  The rules are designed to give consumers more control over the online collection and use of data concerning their preferences and viewing patterns.  

Often websites use specialised software known as “cookies”, which ‘remember’ the specific content a user has viewed, to collect information about the interests of consumers.  This information is then used to direct targeted advertising to individual users. As more information is gathered, a profile of each user’s preferences can be developed, but there is the potential for encroachment on individual privacy. 

Advertisers typically favour the use of OBA as it can increase greatly the effectiveness and efficiency of marketing campaigns. From the consumer’s perspective, however, the extent and nature of information gathered is not always readily apparent.  From 1 September 2013 advertisers will be required to display clear and comprehensive notices regarding the use of OBA on websites. The new rules will also prohibit advertising that is specifically targeted at children under the age of twelve.

The new rules do not apply to all types of online/digital activity. Interactive display advertisements, such as those embedded in games, contextual advertising (i.e. ads tailored to a website’s purpose rather than a user’s preferences) and advertisements on mobile devices are exempt.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Ireland, in conjunction with the European Interactive Digital Advertising Alliance (EDAA), has launched a “consumer-focused awareness campaign…designed to increase consumer awareness, understanding and empowerment regarding online ‘interest-based advertising”. This pan-European information campaign is also being conducted throughout the UK and Germany, with further EU member states expected to join in the coming months.

The new rules will mean that the methods available to online advertisers for reaching their market segments will require careful consideration. Adopting a comprehensive and user-friendly privacy policy can go a long way to allaying the privacy concerns of existing and potential customers. The key issue for advertisers is ensuring that their campaigns comply with the notification and opt-out requirements imposed under the new rules.