Russell Glass's blog

The Next Generation of Truly Transparent Ads

If you’ve been following this blog or if you’ve spent any time on our Web site, you know that Bizo has a deep commitment to transparency. We built this company around the idea that it was possible to target advertising without compromising anyone’s privacy. (Read more about that here and here.)

But lately we’ve been thinking about what it might look like if we were to take transparency even further in the online ad space. What would it be like if with every ad you saw online, you knew exactly how and why it found its way to your screen?

It wouldn’t be all that tough to pull off, the technology is already there, just not the will. At Bizo, we’ve been imagining a scenario where all of our ads had icons that viewers could click to learn why they were seeing particular ads and what data was used to target them.

Our belief is that that kind of transparency and notification will create lift in advertising success, not detract from it. It’s all about making the consumer more aware of the value trade that’s taking place.

I like to use the example of Google search. A user types something into a search bar and sees content AS WELL AS HIGHLY TARGETED ADS based on what was searched. The user is aware of the tradeoff and appreciates the service – even though Google is tracking everything the user does, there is no (or very little) concern about privacy because the transaction is completely transparent. Because of the targeted nature of the ads, they are often viewed as content and not intrusive, and the ad links can be more relevant than the natural search results.

If we did something similar with display advertising, I believe it would make consumers worry less about why they are seeing particular ads. They would know more about the tradeoff they engage in to get the content they want to get online. And importantly, they could decide that the tradeoff isn’t worth it, and opt out if desired. However, for every person that opts-out, I believe there would be 10 that will be more likely to see the ad and appreciate the value tradeoff that is taking place.

Bizo is working toward launching a feature like this in 2010. We’d love to see others in the industry join us.