• Financial marketers will be spending more and more on paid digital advertising in the next five years. This exclusive report looks at the digital advertising trends that will be reshaping the banking the industry in 2015 and beyond. Ad spending on digital media by US financial institutions industry will top $7 billion in 2015, a 14.5% gain over 2014, according to a report from eMarketer (link is external). For the foreseeable future, banks and credit unions will continue to shift more and more of their budgets away from traditional- and offline channels and towards online and mobile media. Growth rates in digital advertising budgets may ease slightly as time passes, but eMarketer forecasts a healthy 11.7% compound annual growth rate between 2014 and 2019. By 2019, eMarketer estimates that the US financial industry will spend over $10 billion annually on digital advertising. Spending figures from Kantar Media show that digital advertising is white hot in the banking industry. While traditional media channels saw significant decreases from their 2013 levels, online advertising (which Kantar defines as desktop display and paid search ads) grew by 20.4%. Digital video is another bright spot, across both desktop and mobile, with financial marketers projected to spend $755 million on the format in 2015. Though the bulk of video ads by the sector will be short pre-roll formats (link is external), (link is external)the desire to tell stories and engage audiences is leading to longer videos tied to branded content sponsorships. Spend some time poking around YouTube and you’ll see what eMarketer is talking about — even credit unions are using online video to retarget visitors to their websites. Full article available at (link is external)
  • Verizon Wireless’ purchase, or merger, with AOL stands out as one of the ad tech stories of 2015. This is not only for its multi-billion price-tag, but also how it symbolises the attempted re-emergence of telco operators in the digital advertising game; which is valued at $600bn per year. ExchangeWire analyses how the worlds of telecomsand ad tech are starting to collide; as well as previewing some of the conflicts this may cause, as advertisers look to take their campaigns across screens. Earlier this month, Verizon Wireless recently confirmed it is to pay $4.4bn in a ‘merger’ with AOL, meaning it will acquire the ad tech firm’s various assets, including: its dial-up internet business and premium content brands, such as Huffington Post; but, most importantly, its ad tech suite, which includes its One by AOL, The telecoms operator aims to challenge Facebook and Google’s near stranglehold on the mobile advertising market. After the conclusion of the deal, which still has to be approved by regulators, AOL will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Verizon Wireless. This will put the operator on the front foot when it comes to selling mobile advertising services in competition with established internet players, such as Facebook and Google – which are credited as tying up 75% of the entire market between themselves. In addition, it will also fend-off the dreaded ‘dumb pipe’ scenario, where mobile operators are effectively unable to monetise their networks, while online advertising companies making increasing gains on the back of them. The key opportunity being the possibility to monetise both its extensive first-party customer data, plus its control over their devices. The move comes amid great consolidation in the UK telecoms operator space – which in turn reflects the wider global telco market, as the market is largely controlled by multinational operator groups – as BT attempts to buy EE, the UK’s biggest carrier by subscriber number, plus O2 UK, a subsidiary of Spain-based Telefonica, under offer by 3-owner, Hutchison Whampoa. Full article available at (link is external)
  • Advertisers, agencies and publishers serve the AdChoices icon more than 1 trillion times each month. Yet despite the icon's presence throughout the Web, fewer than one in 10 Internet users know what the small blue symbol in the shape of a sideways triangle actually means, according to the latest State of Media report by the agency Kelly Scott Madison. That icon -- the centerpiece of the industry's privacy code -- is supposed to function as an immediately recognizable symbol indicating online behavioral advertising. That is, it's supposed to inform people that advertisers are drawing on consumers' Web-surfing history in order to serve them targeted ads. Clicking on the icon also takes people to pages where they can learn more about behavioral targeting and also opt out of receiving targeted ads. KSM calls the industry's icon program a “valiant attempt” to provide transparency. Nonetheless, the results have been “disappointing,” the agency says in its report. “Consumers need to understand advertising capabilities so they aren’t fearful of the potential consequences, and advertisers need to be transparent about how and when they are using customer data,” the report states. For the report, the agency partnered with research forum ORC International, which conducts twice-weekly surveys of 1,000 online adults. The survey found that three out of four Web users (74%) aren't familiar with the AdChoices campaign at all, while only one in three (35%) of the 26% that are familiar with the you-are-being-tracked icon know what it means. The bottom line: Just 9% of Web users understand the icon, according to KSM. Full article available here: (link is external)
  • The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), in its ongoing efforts to monitor the Federal Trade Commission’s enforcement of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), has filed a motion in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia challenging the FTC’s refusal to release important COPPA documentation. The case involves seven “safe harbor” programs, such as KidSAFE and TRUSTe, approved by the FTC to handle website compliance with COPPA regulations. CDD originally made its request in July 2014, under the Freedom of Information Act, seeking access to annual reports filed with the FTC by safe harbor organizations, as required by COPPA. In light of the commission’s failure to respond to that request within FOIA’s statutory time limit, CDD initiated the current legal proceeding in December 2014. Two months later, the FTC finally responded to CDD’s FOIA request, releasing heavily redacted annual reports amounting to less than half of CDD’s original request.As CDD’s court filing makes clear, the FTC has been overzealous in protecting the self-interest of the private Safe Harbor programs. CDD’s predecessor, the Center for Media Education, spearheaded the movement that led to the passage of COPPA in 1998. The regulation applies primarily to commercial websites that target children under 13, limiting the collection of personal information, providing a mechanism for parental involvement, and placing obligations on companies for adequate disclosure and protection of data. More recently, CDD led a coalition of child advocates, privacy groups, and health experts that successfully pressed for a revised set of regulations that update and clarify COPPA’s basic safeguards. These new regulations, which became effective in 2013, add new protections specifically designed to address a wide range practices on social media, mobile, and other platforms. Without the diligent oversight of the FTC, however, COPPA regulations will mean little in the rapidly evolving online marketplace. As it awaits a favorable ruling from the District Court, CDD remains committed to ensuring that COPPA is fully and fairly enforced. See the filed memo attached below.
  • Blog

    YouTube shortens path to purchase

    YouTube, the Google-owned online video platform, is launching a new advertising format which will enable advertisers to buy, almost, from within ads.

    SAN BRUNO, CA: YouTube, the Google-owned online video platform, is launching a new advertising format which will enable advertisers to buy, almost, from within ads. TrueView for Shopping (link is external) links to the technology that powers Google Shopping and allows brands to showcase product details and images within video ads and includes the ability to click to purchase from a brand or retail site. "One of the things we saw was people going off YouTube and searching on for that product [seen in an ad on YouTube], and then clicking the product listing. In this case we're just reducing the friction," Lane Shackleton, YouTube's senior product manager, explained to Advertising Age (link is external). Neal Mohan, vice-president of brand advertising at Google added that "consumers go to YouTube to be entertained and to find information – there are lots of searches for products and looking for 'How To' videos". "They are truly engaged which from a marketer perspective is the perfect time to reach the consumer (link is external)," he told the Financial Times Evidence of the potential effectiveness of the new format came from home goods retailer Wayfair, which ran two campaigns targeting the same audience, one using a standard TrueView ad, the other a new shoppable TrueView ad. The latter delivered three times more revenue, reported Ben Youngs, Wayfair's media manager of TV and online video. "It feels like a huge win," he said. "Having the opportunity to lay additional information on top of our pre-rolls is huge." The development complements Google's work on a '5 (link is external)0', set to be introduced shortly in a move aimed at recovering traffic lost to Amazon. Consumers using smartphones will be buy products from a search advert without having to check out through a retailer's site, although retailers will continue to own the orders and shipping arrangements. Data sourced from YouTube, Advertising Age, Financial Times, Search Engine Watch; additional content by Warc staff. Full link to article: (link is external)
  • Mondelez International—the makers of Oreo cookies, Cadbury chocolate and Trident gum, among other treats—quietly started becoming an e-commerce brand with a a small test in Europe earlier this year. Now, Mondelez plans to convert all its digital media in 25 countries into shoppable ads with "buy now" buttons to drive sales through retailers like Walmart and Amazon. The goal is to double Mondelez's online revenue over the next couple of years, particularly on social media where millennials are spending a substantial amount of time. Despite the hefty, multiyear investment, consumer-packaged-goods brands like Mondelez have long struggled with e-commerce—90 percent of grocery sales are still made in stores (link is external), and some experts question how big a dent the Deerfield, Ill.-based company can make. "I doubt that anyone at Mondelez or anywhere else thinks it will be groundbreaking or an enormous new revenue strategy, but it shows they're willing to test and learn," said Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. "It doesn't cost much to experiment in this way, and at least they capture some data and insights that could help personalization and marketing efforts later.” Calls to action on Mondelez's video, social and display media prompt people to buy the products being advertised. The ads are geo-targeted to retailers' websites. For example, an ad served in New York might link to online grocery-shopping site Peapod (link is external), while a promo viewed in Chicago could direct potential customers to In both examples, users can buy a snack and have it shipped from a nearby store. Cindy Chen, Mondelez's global head of e-commerce, acknowledged that CPGs have a hard time with e-commerce but claimed retailers like the buy button because it gives them a bit of free traffic. "The role of our 'buy now' button is really taking the traffic that we have from the brand side to the retailer," Chen said. More at: (link is external)
  • Advocates Charge Google with Deceiving Parents about Content on YouTube Kids

    App for preschoolers is rife with videos that are potentially harmful to children

    Washington, DC – Tuesday, May 19 – Two leading child and consumer advocacy groups have filed an important update to their Federal Trade Commission complaint against Google’s YouTube Kids app for false and deceptive marketing. In a letter sent to the Commission today, the groups charged that Google is deceiving parents by marketing YouTube Kids as a safe place for children under five to explore when, in reality, the app is rife with videos that would not meet anyone’s definition of “family friendly.” A review by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) has found a significant amount of content that would be extremely disturbing and/or potentially harmful for young children to view, including: Explicit sexual language presented amidst cartoon animation Videos that model unsafe behaviors such as playing with lit matches, shooting a nail gun, juggling knives, tasting battery acid, and making a noose A profanity-laced parody of the film Casino featuring Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street Graphic adult discussions about family violence, pornography, and child suicide Jokes about pedophilia and drug use Advertising for alcohol products CDD and CCFC provided a video (link is external) to the FTC today documenting an array of inappropriate content that can found on YouTube Kids. “Federal law prevents companies from making deceptive claims that mislead consumers," said Aaron Mackey, the coalition’s attorney at Georgetown Law's Institute for Public Representation. "Google promised parents that YouTube Kids would deliver appropriate content for children, but it has failed to fulfill its promise. Parents rightfully feel deceived by YouTube Kids." Google claims that YouTube Kids was “built from the ground up with little ones in mind” and is “packed full of age-appropriate videos.” The app includes a search function that is voice-enabled for easy use for preschool children. Google says it uses “a mix of automated analysis, manual sampling, and input from our users to categorize and screen out videos and topics that may make parents nervous.” Google also assures parents that they “can rest a little easier knowing that videos in the YouTube Kids app are narrowed down to content appropriate for kids.” But, as the complaint explains: Google does not, in fact, “screen out the videos that make parents nervous” and its representations of YouTube Kids as a safe, child-friendly version of YouTube are deceptive. Parents who download the app are likely to expose their children to the very content they believed they would avoid by using the preschool version of YouTube. In addition to the unfair and deceptive marketing practices we identified in our initial request for an investigation, it is clear that Google is deceiving parents about the effectiveness of their screening processes and the content on YouTube Kids. “In the rush to expand its advertising empire to preschoolers, Google has made promises about the content on YouTube Kids that it is incapable of keeping,” said Josh Golin, Associate Director of CCFC. “As a parent, I was shocked to discover that an app that Google claims is safe for young children to explore includes so much inappropriate content from the Wild West of YouTube.” Today’s letter is an update to the advocates’ April 7, 2015 FTC complaint that charged Google with engaging in unfair and deceptive practices towards children and their parents. That complaint detailed how YouTube Kids featured ads and other marketing material that took advantage of children’s developmental vulnerabilities. It also noted that the “blending of children’s programming content with advertising material on television has long been prohibited because it is unfair and deceptive to children. The fact that children are viewing the videos on a tablet or smart phone screen instead of on a television screen does not make it any less unfair and deceptive.” The complaint also called on the FTC to address the failure by Google to disclose that many makers of so-called “user-generated” videos featuring toys and candy have relationships with those product's manufacturers. “The same lack of responsibility Google displayed with advertising violations on YouTube Kids is also apparent in the content made available on the app,” observed Dale Kunkel, Professor of Communication at University of Arizona. “There is a serious risk of harm for children who might see these videos. It’s clear Google simply isn’t ready to provide genuinely appropriate media products for children.” Added Jeff Chester, executive director of CDD, “Google gets an 'F' when it comes to protecting America’s youngest kids. The failure of the most powerful and technologically advanced media company to create a safe place for America’s youngest kids requires immediate action by the FTC.” Today’s letter to the FTC is available below. The coalition’s original FTC complaint is available at The compilation of YouTube Kids video clips can be viewed at (link is external).
  • Blog

    Don’t forget big data in TTIP and TISA

    The issues of data sovereignty and data protection have been sadly lacking in the debate on trade agreements, writes historian Svend Aage Christensen.

    It is crystal clear what corporations want in the Transatlantic trade greement (TTIP) and the other treaties being negotiated: a commitment to allow cross border data flows and data-processing across all services sectors, including financial services, without any limitations. They consider requirements to use local network infrastructure or local servers as discriminatory, with potentially adverse effects on trade. According to Michael Froman, the American chief negotiator, this is high on the agenda in the trade negotiations. It is common to talk about big data as the raw material of the new digital economy of the 21st century, and as an important factor in every industry and business function. In agriculture, for example, the farmers transfer large amounts of business and production information regarding their planting, production and harvesting practices to their service providers. All this data can be connected in business models, where the sale of seeds, plant protection, fertilizer, sensor capacity, analytical capacity and high-tech equipment may be combined with marketing of the crop and with banking, insurance and pension services. This can be used to make the farmer totally dependent and thereby further strengthen monopolistic features among the service providers. Big data floods all aspects of life. As the first big insurance company in Europe, the Italian based Generali Group is now aiming at digital control of its customers. Via an app, they are expected to send data regarding their health, fitness, lifestyle etc. to Generali, and may be awarded a cheaper premium, if they are in good shape. Predictably, some algorithm will determine that we need to pay higher health insurance premiums, if we refuse to have our bodies hooked up to cables, or if we don’t exercise daily. More at: (link is external)
  • Blog

    Digging into the Cross-Device Implications of the Verizon-AOL Deal

    Verizon is hooked into 1.5 billion connected devices across the world, responsible for about 70% of all Internet traffic. The next step is to match user identity across those devices.

    Verizon has access to deterministic data – and now it ostensibly owns the programmatic tech to put that data to work via AOL, which the telecom bought for $4.4 billion on Monday. This isn’t Verizon’s first stab at ad tech. Precision Market Insights (link is external), the company’s addressable advertising division, has been groping about, with various degrees of success, for a way to take advantage of Verizon’s rich user data, which includes everything from email and browsing history to phone number and physical mailing address – all of which in theory could be used to connect device IDs across mobile, desktop and TV. “Verizon obviously has a great asset here, a significant user base, and once that becomes available for media buying, it’s going to be very valuable for cross-device connectivity, assuming they can get fully integrated into AOL’s platforms,” said Michael Collins, CEO of mobile DSP Adelphic. The merger is a clear sign of Verizon’s desire to go head to head with Facebook and Google in terms of scale, a “symptom of a larger recognition in ad tech that” those platforms “are only going to grow more dominant,” said Martin Kihn, research director at Gartner. More at: (link is external)
  • Blog

    Researching the New Shopper Experience

    Exploring how shopper are more digital and emotional, while research is more implicit and virtual shopping itself is changing.

    The internet and the usage of smartphones has altered buying –shops are becoming much more experience oriented. They deliver emotions, they address certain values and develop a narrative for shoppers. New payment methods, self-service cashiers are out, while digital signage is getting more accessible. In short, there are many new questions around the shopper. We want to give an update about the recent trends and findings. Third many new research devices have appeared on the market. Many of them provide data about the implicit consumer processes like attention, emotion and behavior. Shoppers can be assessed through video cameras and smart phones. Algorithms allow for an automatic detection about their position, speed and initial emotional reactions. Eye tracking is now miniaturised and affordable and hence provides exact information about visual attention in large-scale samples. Virtual 3D technologies allow pre-testing on a much more realistic level than it used to be. Furthermore consumer technologies like wrist bands are used for assessing activity and emotions. All of these methods claim to go beyond the limitations of self-reported measurements, and to deliver extended insights especially about-hidden drivers. In the workshop, we want to give an overview of these new technologies, the potential added value and the limitations. Using our experience with successes and failures we want to give advice on the right usage and the right communication. We will also have a special section to address privacy questions coming out of these new techniques. More (link is external) at: (link is external)
  • This report summarizes how the online lead generation (or “lead gen”) business works. Companies that look as if they are offering you a loan are actually (often deceptively) collecting information about you to sell your profile (a “lead”) to the highest-bidding loan company (and often to fraudulent firms, too). At the end of the report, we offer consumer tips on what you can do to protect yourself. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (link is external)
  • Project

    Private For-Profit Colleges and Online Lead Generation

    Private Universities Use Digital Marketing to Target Prospects, Including Veterans, via the Internet

    This report summarizes how companies that specialize in recruiting students to enroll at for-profit colleges use online lead generation (or “lead gen”) and other targeting tools. Websites that look like news sites or even colleges themselves are actually (often deceptively) collecting information about you to sell your profile (a “lead”) to the highest-bidding for-profit school. Many lead generators specialize in targeting veterans, because the schools will pay a higher fee to obtain access not only to federal student loan funds but also to federal veterans’ benefits, as we explain below. Many of these schools are under investigation or have even been shut down by government agencies for fraudulent practices. At the end of the report, we offer consumer tips on what you can do to protect yourself. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (link is external)
  • Data-driven tools enable marketers and financial firms to specifically target any group, from students and veterans to ethnic groups. This report examines digital targeting and marketing to Hispanics, especially younger Hispanics, due to their growing economic clout and early adoption of mobile smart phones, which enables precision targeting based on behavior, geo-location and language. Unfortunately, as the report explains, the out-sized digital footprint of young Hispanics enables some of the worst elements of the digital economy – from predatory payday lenders to debt settlement companies – to target Hispanics through online lead generator schemes. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (link is external)
  • Twitter’s recent agreement to purchase mobile retargetting company TellApart (link is external) was just the latest round in the ongoing industry consolidation.
  • So-called “native advertising” ─where advertiser-produced or –directed content is designed to blend in with online editorial information ─ is quickly becoming a dominant way American consumers receive marketing. Marketers in the U.S. spent nearly $8 billion last year on native ads (up $3 billion from 2013), which is expected to rise to $21 billion by2018.1 Native ads are where the “format and the tone match that of a publisher’s original editorial content.2 1 (link is external)‐native‐ads‐will-soar-as-publishers‐and‐ 2 “The Native-Advertising Report: Spending Trends, Format Breakdowns, and Audience Attitudes.” Mark Hoelzel, BI Intellengence. 6 Nov. 2014, personal copy.
    Jeff Chester
  • Digital Data and Consumer Protection: Ensuring a Fair and Equitable Financial Marketplace. Author and Professor Frank Pasquale discusses his new book "The Black Box Society," on the growing use of secret algorithms to categorize consumers. A Project of US PIRG Education Fund & Center for Digital Democracy Part 1: Keynote by Professor Frank Pasquale, author of "The Black Box Society" (Harvard University Press 2015) (link is external) Part 2 (Panel 1): Advocates Sarah Ludwig, (New Economy Project-NYC) and Alexis Goldstein ( (link is external)) w/ Frank Pasquale and Ed Mierzwinski, USPIRG Education Fund (link is external) Part 3 (Panel 2) : Regulators Jessica Rich (FTC) and Peggy Twohig (CFPB) w/ Frank Pasquale and Jeff Chester, Center for Digital Democracy (link is external) About this project: American consumers face new challenges and opportunities to their financial security as our economy is transformed by the convergence of digital media with “Big Data” technologies. Our use of mobile phones, social media, “apps,” and other online tools have created new ways for us to spend, save and borrow money. Powerful forces are at work, however, that can undermine a consumer’s ability to make the best choices and may place those already financially at risk even more vulnerable. The digital data-driven economy continually gathers vast amounts of information on individuals, online and offline, which is used to create a “profile” about our spending habits, behavior and our geo-location. These profiles can be “scored”—an invisible measure known only to the marketer and data brokers—that can determine whether we are offered high interest credit cards, payday and for-profit college loans and even what we may pay at retail and grocery stores. The uses of the information can be positive or, absent any regulation or meaningful protections, lead to discrimination, price manipulation or denied opportunity. Our collected personal information is merged into an ever-expanding database of information that enables firms we may know about and many others we don’t know to engage in personalized high-tech marketing and advertising practices designed to get us—and our families—to continually spend more money. In today’s online world, a consumer can be targeted for offers nearly 24/7, whether we use a mobile phone, computer, or while watching TV. American consumers do not have meaningful safeguards for these data analytics and digital marketing practices, including both protecting their privacy and preventing misuse of their information to deny economic opportunity. USPIRG Education Fund (link is external) and the Center for Digital Democracy are working together to ensure that consumers are treated fairly by this new digital “wild west” financial marketplace. Case Studies and Reports: Online Lead Generation: What You need-to-know to Protect Yourself from Companies in the Business of Secretly Selling You to Predatory Payday and Other Short-term Loan Companies (link is external) (May 2015) Targeting Hispanics for Leads in the Digital Big Data Era (link is external)(May 2015) Private For-Profit Colleges and Online Lead Generation: Private Universities Use Digital Marketing to Target Prospects, Including Veterans, via the Internet (link is external) (May 2015) Big Data Means Big Opportunities and Big Challenges: Promoting Financial Inclusion and Consumer Protection in the “Big Data” Financial Era (link is external) (March 2014) Law Review Articles: Selling Consumers Not Lists: The New World of Digital Decision-Making and the Role of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (link is external), Suffolk University Law Review, (December 2013) Available Video and Webinar Presentations: Video archive (link is external) of the “Data, Lending, and Civil Rights” conference at Georgetown University, 8 April 2015, (agenda and information (link is external)) sponsored by Americans for Financial Reform, The Leadership Conference Education Fund and the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law. (Ed Mierzwinski’s panel begins at approximately 2h 45m and Ed’s main remarks at approximately 3h 2m 30sec.) USPIRG Education Fund and Center for Digital Democracy acknowledge the support of the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment and the Digital Trust Foundation for support of our research and education work on data and financial opportunity. We thank them for their support but acknowledge that the work, events, reports and investigations are those of the authors and organizations alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Foundations. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (link is external)
  • Answering Your Questions About Google's Forthcoming DMP by Zach Rodgers (link is external) // Friday, April 24th, 2015 – 3:53 pm On Wednesday, Adweek's Garrett Sloane reported (link is external) that Google is finally, officially (no, really) closing the last big gap in its ad tech stack. That is to say, it's coming to market with a data-management platform (DMP). Called DoubleClick Audience Center (DAC), the product will allow advertisers to create audience segments using their first-party data along with data from third parties. In the wake of Sloane's story, AdExchanger did some calling around, and we've pieced together what DAC’s strengths and weaknesses are likely to be and how quickly Google is bringing it to market. What follows comes from people with direct knowledge of Google's road map, as well as some folks outside the company (including competitors) who have first- and secondhand knowledge. Google has confirmed the existence of the product, but is offering few concrete details as of yet. What is it? DAC performs all the functions of a standard DMP, i.e., it lets marketers bring to bear their CRM database, website audience data and other first-party data in combination with data from third parties. These data sets can then be used to build audience segments, and to push those segments into campaigns that run across supply sources. What's the differentiator? This is an easy one. For existing DoubleClick clients, the big value proposition is the promise of a DMP that's natively integrated with Google's DSP DoubleClick Bid Manager and its ad management product, DoubleClick for Advertisers. That tight integration comes with benefits such as smoother workflow, quicker activation of data segments and closed-loop analytics. Additionally, DAC appears to perform well with third-party data overlays. Is it a standalone product? This is a big question. Is Google only launching a DMP so that marketers already invested in its DoubleClick suite can manage audiences in the same hub? Or will it plug into outside platforms? A source with direct knowledge of the product says DAC will absolutely function as a standalone capable of plugging into outside DSPs such as MediaMath, Turn or DataXu. Two others aren't so sure. They believe, based on early accounts, that the primary early use case is for the existing DoubleClick customer. "My take is it's less of a pure DMP play and more of a connecting the pipes both internally and externally," said one senior executive at a DSP company. What are the weak points? The key vulnerability for Google is that marketers and agencies may balk at the prospect of uploading their precious customer data to Google's platform. It's the same issue Facebook faces as it aims to position Atlas as a cross-device audience management platform. From a features standpoint, DAC may have a shortcoming when it comes to granular analytics, such as tracking consumer journeys and attributing conversions. DAC is not providing that functionality out of the gate. (Google acquired attribution platform Adometry last year, but the technology has been housed within Google Analytics, not DoubleClick. More granular conversion attribution in DoubleClick may be on the way.) Finally, DAC's segment-building capabilities appear to be relatively rudimentary, according to a source. At what stage is Google with the rollout of DAC? While officially still in a private beta, Google appears to be ramping up sales quickly. A senior source at a major DMP says many of his customers have been pitched in recent weeks. What took so long? Google has talked internally about launching a DMP for close to six years, but has held back for various reasons. Its biggest concern and hesitation has been around user privacy, since a DMP by its nature mingles a range of consumer information. The flip side of that privacy coin is regulation. US and European regulators keep a close eye on Google's moves. According to one person, the absence of a DMP was more strongly felt after Google unveiled its full-stack offering – Doubleclick Digital Marketing – consisting of all its ad tech components for the buy side. But that was three years ago. So, why now? The two biggest factors in the timing appear to be (1) the emergence of Oracle as a strong data-management contender, through the acquisitions of BlueKai and Datalogix in 2014, and (2) the rise of Facebook as a competitor with strong cross-device data tied to user logins. "They're worried about Facebook leaning too far forward and using Atlas as the all-in-one center for controlling data," speculated one source. "Facebook obviously has a stronger audience position out of the gate with its registered users than Google does." Will it support cross-device identity? No word on this yet. One source said that in several early briefings, cross-device functionality was not part of the pitch. (link is external)
  • CDD's executive director Jeff Chester called on regulators representing dozens of nations to address the role that today's data collection complex plays in consumer transactions and services. Speaking at the 2015 annual meeting of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), Chester said that in order to protect consumes today's regulatory agencies--such as the FTC--must understand how data issues are integrally a part of consumer services, including in the financial, health, and retail marketplace. A modified version of the presentation is attached, minus the videos shown that illustrated the cross-device tracking and Big Data Management Platforms that are just the latest developments in digital targeting of individuals. There were also video presentations on how programmatic advertising works (targeting junk food to kids); the role that measurement plays (continually analyzing how we respond to a range of applications and interactions); and the growing use of neuromarketing (fMRI's, facial coding, etc.) is shaping digital marketing and other communications so that it operates at the subconscious and emotional level of individuals. The "story" the slides tell is that to protect consumers in the 21st Century, consumer regulatory agencies need to address how digital marketing actually operates, which is, of course, through a system that integrates data collection with a range of online advertising applications (to "immerse" users in the interactive content, through social media surveillance, neuromarketing, geo-location, etc.). Consumer agencies should tackle the "path-to-purchase" paradigm, supported by Google and others, that continually targets an individual to influence their purchasing behaviors both online and offline. Digital marketing is really a powerful system designed to promote the influence of brands and products, including through ways designed to change how an individual thinks, feels and acts. We explained that this was a global system, with the same set of marketing and data gathering practices being used in SE Asia, Middle East, Latin America, EU, U.S., etc. So here's a quick run-down of the slides attached, minus the videos. Slide 1: 21st Century Consumer protection must address the role that data collecting and its use play with the marketing and provision of services, including financial and health. Slide 2: Scholars, such as Prof. Frank Pasquale, are raising concerns about the role that complex data analysis plays in decision-making on individuals. They have called for regulators to address how the "Black Box" of algorithms and related predictive analytic tools is used in the marketplace. Slide 3: This slide from Adobe illustrates one of my points, that the “Black Box” reflects deliberately chosen business practices used to target individuals. The so-called “secret sauce” is often visible by examining how the businesses use their data and marketing to sell or promote to consumers. Slide 4: What safeguards are required today. Slide 5: Our work since the early 1990’s to address the role that data plays in the commercial marketplace, including our leading campaign to enact the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in 1998. We explained we fought for privacy rules that would protect everyone back in the 1990’s, but the industry opposition then—as today—was too strong to get anything except for children. Slide 6: Explained that the basic business model for online was articulated back in the early 1990’s in the book “One-to-One Future.” At that time, it was about tracking an individual across a single website; today includes omnipresent tracking across devices and applications. The picture on the right is Facebook’s new data center in Sweden, the largest one it has built in the EU. Slide 7: Illustrates the role that online data collection, through lead generation, played in the global financial crisis. Online lead gen used to sell subprime loans in the U.S. Message was there are vast international consequences—to people, families, and nations—with how the online marketing system operates. Slide 8: Our recent FTC complaint on Google’s YouTube Kids unfair and deceptive ad practices that target the youngest children. Slide 9: It’s a global system and an international problem. Slide 10: What’s been created in a commercial surveillance system of individuals, groups, and communities. Slide 11: The path-to-purchase paradigm and need for regulators to understand and address the continual monitoring and targeting of consumers. Slide 12: The role that contemporary “Big Data” practices play in marketing. Slide 13: The mobile device’s critical role in digital marketing, including how quickly it achieved mass use (compared with other media). Slide 14: The complex of data companies, often working closely together, that assembles profiles of an individual. Slide 15: It’s not anonymous. It’s about an individual. Slide 16: To address today’s consumer practices, you need to analyze how both data and digital marketing applications are used. Slide 17: The intent is to understand and “manage” a person’s identity, for commercial (and also political) purposes. Slide 18: Facebook sells itself to advertisers by saying they know the “identity” of the user. Slides: 19-20: A person is sold in real-time, milliseconds, to marketers via so-called programmatic buying (ad exchanges, etc.). Gave example from McDonald’s in Denmark. Slides: 21-23. Features of contemporary digital marketing. Slides 24-25: Companies are engaged in social media surveillance, including through the monitoring and analysis of blogs, posts, etc. They are now social media “command centers” engaging in such practices 24/7. Slides 26-28: Examples of digital marketing of loans to low-income consumers, health products and alcoholic beverages. Slide 29: Real-time data targeting and sells of a user/household coming to TV. Slide 30: Teens require safeguards. Role of junk food companies using digital marketing, despite global youth obesity epidemic. Slide 31: Problems will grow, with Internet of Things, mobile payments, wearable’s, etc. Final Slide: Need to proactively act. Regulators should be concerned that trade deals, such as TPP and TTIP, will restrict their ability to act on the future. PS: FTC Commissioner Julie Brill gave a terrific presentation on these issues, raising many key concerns (attached).
  • Washington, DC – Tuesday, April 7 – A coalition of prominent children’s and consumer advocacy groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today requesting an investigation of Google, charging the company with unfair and deceptive practices in connection with its new YouTube Kids app. The complaint (link is external) details a number of the app’s features that take advantage of children’s developmental vulnerabilities and violate long-standing media and advertising safeguards that protect children viewing television. Among the specific practices identified in the complaint are: Intermixing advertising and programming in ways that deceive young children, who, unlike adults, lack the cognitive ability to distinguish between the two; Featuring numerous “branded channels” for McDonald’s, Barbie, Fisher-Price, and other companies, which are little more than program-length commercials; Distributing so-called “user-generated” segments that feature toys, candy, and other products without disclosing the business relationships that many of the producers of these videos have with the manufacturers of the products, a likely violation of the FTC’s Endorsement Guidelines. When it launched the YouTube Kids app in February, Google described it as “the first Google product built from the ground up with little ones in mind.” As the complaint points out, however, the company appears to have ignored not only the scientific research on children’s developmental limitations, but also the well-established system of advertising safeguards that has been in place on both broadcast and cable television for decades. Those important policies include (1) a prohibition against the host of a children’s program from delivering commercial messages; (2) strict time limits on the amount of advertising any children’s program can include; (3) the prohibition of program-length commercials; and (4) the banning of “product placements” or “embedded advertisements.” Such “blending of children’s programming content with advertising material on television,” the group’s complaint declares, “has long been prohibited because it is unfair and deceptive to children. The fact that children are viewing the videos on a tablet or smart phone screen instead of on a television screen does not make it any less unfair and deceptive.” The complaint also charges that Google is violating its own advertising policies for YouTube Kids. For example, while the company promises that food and beverage ads will not appear on the app, advertising and promotions for junk food are prominently featured throughout. “YouTube Kids is the most hyper-commercialized media environment for children I have ever seen,” commented Dale Kunkel, Professor of Communication, University of Arizona. “Many of these advertising tactics are considered illegal on television, and it's sad to see Google trying to get away with using them in digital media.” “There is nothing 'child friendly' about an app that obliterates long-standing principles designed to protect kids from commercialism,” added Josh Golin, Associate Director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “YouTube Kids exploits children’s developmental vulnerabilities by delivering a steady stream of advertising that masquerades as programming. Furthermore, YouTube Kids' advertising policy is incredibly deceptive. To cite just one example, Google claims it doesn't accept food and beverage ads but McDonald's actually has its own channel and the 'content' includes actual Happy Meal commercials.” Angela J. Campbell of the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown Law, who serves as counsel to the coalition, called on the FTC to "investigate whether Disney and other marketers are providing secret financial incentives for the creation of videos showing off their products. The FTC’s Endorsement Guides require disclosure of any such relationships so that consumers will not be misled." “In today’s digital era, children deserve effective safeguards that will protect them regardless of the ‘screen’ they use,” explained Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “In addition to ensuring that Google stops its illegal and irresponsible behavior to children on YouTube Kids, new policies will be required to address the growing arsenal of powerful digital marketing and targeting practices that are shaping contemporary children’s media culture – on mobile phones, social media, gaming devices, and online video platforms.” Organizations signing the complaint include: the Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Children Now, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, Consumers Union, Corporate Accountability International, and Public Citizen
  • Blog

    How YouTube, Big Data and Big Brands Mean Trouble For Kids and Parents

    The motivation for big tech is to mold this generation of youth into super-consumers.

    By Jeff Chester (link is external) / AlterNet (link is external) April 6, 2015 There is a “digital gold rush” underway to cash in on young people’s passion for interactive media. Google and other media (link is external) and ad companies are working to transform kids’ clicks and views into bundles of cash and burgeoning brand loyalty. While TV still dominates a great deal of kids’ media viewing, they are also consuming content (often simultaneously) on mobile devices, tablets, and through streaming or video-on-demand services. In February, Google (link is external) launched its YouTube Kids app for children five and under; Disney acquired leading youth-focused online video producer Maker Studios (link is external) last year in a more than $500 million deal, giving it control of “the largest content network on YouTube”; Viacom’s Cartoon Network (CN) now offers CN’s “Anything,” providing mobile phone-friendly “micro” content and promising to serve a “network of devices giving a network of experiences to a network of fans”; and Amazon, Netflix, and others are sending more “kid targeted” streaming video-on-demand programming. But unlike broadcast and cable TV, where there is at least a handful of FCC regulations that prevent some of the worst practices perfected by advertisers for targeting kids, the online world is mostly a regulatory-free zone when it comes to digital marketing. Advocates and child-health experts fought a long campaign, from the 1970’s to the 1990’s, to ensure that TV didn’t take unfair advantage of how kids relate to advertising—so that shows weren’t simply “program-length commercials” for toys, or that the “host” or star of a program—such as a cartoon character—didn’t also pitch products at the same time. There were also modest limits in how many ads could appear in so-called “kidvid” programming. These rules reflected research on children’s development and their inability to fully comprehend the nature of advertising. The FCC (link is external) policies embraced an important principle: children were to be treated differently than adults when it came to TV advertising. Such safeguards are even more important in the digital era, when sophisticated advertising techniques gather and analyze data on everything an individual does, and incorporate an array of powerful interactive features on mobile devices and PCs that have been designed to get results. Parents and others who care about children should be forewarned: For Google, Facebook, media companies like Nickelodeon, toy companies, and junk food marketers, the Internet is a medium whose primary focus is to help brand advertisers turn young people into fans, “influencers” (to spread the word via social media), and buyers of products. Although children benefit from using educational apps, and have greater access to more diverse entertainment and other content, the motivation really at work is to mold this generation of youth into super-consumers, encouraged to engage in a never-ending buying cycle of goods and services. Children (link is external) are now a key target for Google’s “monetization” strategies, helping the company cash in from the sales of toys, apps, junk food, and other products. (So-called “tweens” in the U.S. alone are said to influence (link is external) some $200 billion a year in spending, including $43 billion of their own money.) With Google’s overall revenue growth slowing, with Facebook aggressively seeking to displace it as the global digital advertising leader, and with consumers flocking to mobile phones (instead of PCs) to view videos and use apps, kids—which were one of the only consumer groups not formally targeted by Google until now—are viewed as an essential new market to conquer. In February, Google unveiled a new advertiser-supported “YouTube Kids” app, its first “product built from the ground up with little ones in mind.” Google’s YouTube Kids “product manager” claimed that “the app makes it safer and easier for children to find videos on topics they want to explore.” Google also promised that ads “that aren’t kid-appropriate don’t surface.” But Google’s YouTube Kids (link is external) is filled with ads disguised as programming and product pitches that violate rules that broadcast and cable TV channels have to follow. A coalition of consumer, privacy, and children’s advocacy groups urged the FTC to investigate Google’s new YouTube Kids app, as well as how the company targets older children on YouTube itself. (Six (link is external) of YouTube’s leading channels are “aimed at children.”) Google wants to place even the youngest kids inside its powerful marketing apparatus, making sure they will help the company generate much-needed profits as they grew older. It is encouraging brands to take advantage of how young people are engaging in a “multi-screen experience,” including watching video on smart phones, and how YouTube combines the attributes of video service and social networking. Google explains (link is external) that YouTube takes the most powerful medium for connecting with the heart and mind—video—and elevates it from a one-way communication to a two-way experience by inviting brands and consumers alike to connect, curate, create and form community … . On YouTube, brands have the unparalleled opportunity to connect with their most valuable audience and the creative freedom to do so in the most compelling way. The reward for the marketer is a fanbase moved not only emotionally, but also literally, to purchase, comment, share and advocate for that brand. In short, YouTube moves people to choose your brand. As an article on the launch of YouTube Kids explained, “If YouTube can earn the trust of parents and hook (link is external) a new group at an even earlier age, then that’s tapping a whole new market of users that will literally grow up with the service—and use it for a much longer portion of their lives.” While appearing as a distribution service for many programmers, independent and professional, YouTube is a key part of an incredibly sophisticated, elaborate, and highly powerful global marketing apparatus. Google executives recently pledged that they are “listening to brands” and taking “action” to help make YouTube a more effective platform to help accomplish their goals. YouTube: “one of the biggest Big Data projects in the world” YouTube incorporates (link is external) all of Google’s expertise in gathering and analyzing consumer information, so a user, even a young one, can be effectively targeted with marketing. YouTube, it explains, “is one of the biggest Big Data projects in the world.” “At YouTube, data drives the way we make decisions,” including to help its advertisers “get closer to the holy grail of precision targeting.” YouTube, explains the company, has “one of the world’s richest datasets,” which it combines with “Google’s cutting-edge technology” to “transform insights into real-world products.” YouTube continually researches and develops ways to measure and analyze how ads can work more effectively; it identifies “new algorithms and methods for optimizing ads,” “researches new ways for modeling end user behavior,” and more. Its data fuel YouTube’s “recommendation systems,” and the company is now “pushing the boundaries of science and engineering” to make its home page deliver more revenue. It offers its users, including children, “recommended videos” as well as other products that help its advertisers. Through machine learning about us, including analyzing our data, Google plans to further strengthen how it can “introduce users to areas of their interest that many did not realize YouTube had.” YouTube is now working to “build the next generation game-console based TV experience with YouTube video content,” which will deliver “a compelling lean back experience with monetization and e-commerce offerings” (including “pay-per stream” and ad content), as well as through partnerships that “integrate” its content. Generating revenues by attracting and targeting gamers is a key part of YouTube’s marketing-to-youth strategy. It is also positioning YouTube to be a key part of digitally connected “Living Room” devices, including “game consoles, smart TV’s, set-top boxes” to “drive distribution and user engagement.” We “put your brand in their hand” Through its “brand channels”—“a 24/7 broadcast center where customers can watch, share and love your brand”—YouTube helps advertisers like Red Bull and Walmart “energize” its customers. These channels can be specially configured to work well with mobile devices, explains Google, so marketers (link is external) can “put your brand in their hand.” Google also offers a “Custom Brand Channel” on YouTube, “the highest level of brand channel customization,” which incorporates special “interactive applications” designed to promote the “branding” experience more effectively. Last year, as part of its ongoing effort to work more closely with leading advertisers, Google also unveiled its “Partner Select” program, which helps its clients take advantage of its advanced data-targeting platform to run ads on its top-ranked video programming. Google is working to have YouTube play a key role erasing what’s left of the boundaries that have separated advertising and content. Through what it calls “content marketing,” YouTube promises to help its advertisers take advantage of our “shortening attention spans” to positively respond to a brand’s message, explaining that “In a world of shortening attention spans and increasing options, advertising is undergoing a sea change. More and more, ads are becoming content that people choose to watch. … [W]e use the tools and know-how developed by a generation of YouTube content creators to help brands develop ads that will resonate with today’s consumers.” As a leader in using mobile phones to target individuals based on their actual location, Google is also in the forefront of delivering its content on smart phones and similar devices, boasting that “viewing video on smartphones is far less distracted than it is on TV.” YouTube: “Precision Targeting at Scale” To help its advertisers, YouTube provides “precision targeting at scale” thatleverages (link is external) “the sight, sound and motion of video, the most persuasive ad format every evented.” Google claims that its “targeting tools are so precise” marketers “can show your ad to folks around your corner or to anyone around the world.” One can target by age, gender, zip code, language, interest, and can “retarget” someone whose data have been (largely secretly) collected when they were on YouTube or other sites. Google offers advertisers a formidable arsenal of “3rd Party Audience Data” that can incorporate details on one’s finances, buying behavior, and many other personal details. Now reaching one billion people worldwide, YouTube identifies Hispanics, teens, those “hard to reach,” as well as adult men and women as key targets; it notes, for example, that “54% of all teens” and “59% of all Hispanics” use it. (Among the “facts” on Hispanics it lists for advertisers is that “76% currently own a pet” and “58% are grocery decision makers in their household.”) YouTube also plays a direct role helping key advertisers achieve their goals, including through its “in-house creative team” (which it calls “The ZOO”) that “can unleash the true power of your message with a custom campaign.” YouTube’s “Brand Nirvana” Promotes Junk Food to Kids Google has been helping Mondelez, Pepsi, and other fast-food marketers push their products—despite concerns about the global obesity epidemic—especially on young people. Last year, Mondelez signed a deal with Google that featured the candy (link is external) and snack company (Oreo, etc.) making a commitment to “accelerate” its investment in online video. The pact involved the use of Google’s advanced data-driven targeting system (known as “programmatic buying”) and the development of more “branded content.” Google and Mondelez are “partnering on content pilots through YouTube’s Brand Partner Program … [to produce] low-cost video content featuring influential digital stars with Sour Patch Kids in the U.S.” Mondelez’s YouTube channel for Oreos features an array of ads dressed up as games, in English and Spanish, which is typical of Google’s use of video to promote junk food products using the full power of its platform. Fast-food companies, including such brands as Coca-Cola, Mars, Mondelez, Wendy’s, and Post cereal, are also using advanced analytics on YouTube viewing to help refine their targeting strategies. Frank Cooper, Pepsi’s chief marketing officer, was a keynote speaker at YouTube’s “Brandcast” 2014 event. In announcing that Pepsi has increased its spending for YouTube services by 50 percent over the last year, Cooper noted that “we live in a world where visual content in the digital space is the new center of gravity for pop culture,” and being on YouTube and related digital applications enables Pepsi (link is external) to be part of a conversation that is “driving culture.” When people share “your content with their friends,” he noted, it is “brand nirvana.” YouTube as Toy Promotion Central Google is positioning YouTube (link is external) to be a central place for children to learn about toys they want their parents or family to buy. As one toy business analyst explained, “It’s a totally new way of advertising. [The YouTube channels] are becoming more and more important.” Although Google’s terms of service (ToS (link is external)) for YouTube requires users to be 13 and older, it’s clear that it is targeting kids—and violating its own policy—in order to profit from the children’s market. Its ToS states that “the Service is not intended for children under 13. If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the Service. There are lots of other great web sites for you. Talk to your parents about what sites are appropriate for you.” Yet despite its own ToS banning children from signing up, YouTube is clearly targeting kids. For example, “FunToyzCollector (link is external),” which describes itself as “all about kid-friendly videos for toddlers, babies, infants and pre-school children,” recently placed first in views among all the YouTube channels (517.3 million). The channel engages in “unboxing” toys, an increasingly sought after YouTube genre that provides viewers with a “virtual tour” of kids products, such as “Sofia the First Balloon Tea Party 2-in-1 Playset with Disney Frozen Princess Anna Elsa of Arendelle.” Very popular with young kids in the U.S., the YouTube ad-supported channel made its owner an estimated $4.9 million last year. Kids either find or are shown these channels as they search for new toys to buy or to receive as presents. “DisneyCarToys (link is external),” “a fun kid friendly toy channel” produced by Disney subsidiary Maker Studios, is another example of how Google profits by permitting the targeting of children. The channel is one of five toy-related YouTube channels that Disney acquired (link is external) in 2014, including “HobbyKidsTV, ToyReviewToys, AllToyCollector, and TheEngineeringFamily.” These popular “top 40 toy channels worldwide,” which integrate Disney’s characters and brands into the programming content, are now part of Disney’s “merchandising” strategy, which will include more brand tie-ins and advertising. Maker Studios itself has a major kids marketing presence on YouTube. It describes its “Cartoontium (link is external)” set of programs as “the place to find all the best kid’s entertainment on YouTube!” One of its channels is called “Messy Painting in the Dark-Neon Arcade,” where “Toys, games and financial support [is] provided by Hasbro.” Other Cartoonium programming features “classic episodes of Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake.” “Strawberry Shortcake” and other programming include ads for toys (and some of these shows are also on the YouTube Kids app). One reason Disney acquired Maker, explained CEO Bob Iger, was to reap its “great access to data and algorithms,” which are gathered from billions of views collected through its 55,000 YouTube channels. Another kids’ toy–focused YouTube service is also partnering with the Disney/Maker empire. “EvanTubeHD (link is external),” involving two young children (eight and five years old) and their father, “boasts more than a billion views across” three channels. The two children “review and play with the most popular kids toys currently on shelves.” As an analyst explained why toy companies are enthusiastically seeking out relationships with kid reviewers online, “Kids trust other kids more so than they would an adult.” Maker has a broad range of marketing services it offers brands (link is external) and advertisers, including “custom pre-roll” ads (the short spots that run before a YouTube or other video content starts); channel targeting (“integrate your brand message natively into our top performing channels”); and sponsorships (“More than just a logo, our unique custom sponsorships allow you to connect with our forward leaning and deeply engaged audiences”). Maker touts its strong alliance of partners, including its “custom solutions to the world's best brands” and “effective and hyper-targeted media solutions.” Partners include Mattel, Pepsi, Warner Bros, and parent Disney. It also works with the leading ad agencies that represent major global brands “to create unique programs across our programming and talent.” In another example of how Google fails to protect children, it allows Disney to encourage its young viewers to connect to them using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—despite these sites requiring users to be 13 years or older. So eager is Google to reap profits, it appears purposely to ignore how toy companies are establishing nothing more than 24/7 virtual ad channels on YouTube. For example, Spin Master, a “top-five” toy company, has created a “kid centric YouTube channel dubbed SpindoTV (link is external), aimed at children 6-11. Its shows are based on its toy line-up, including “Sick Bricks” and “Beat the Parents” board game. Many of its shows are a part of Google’s new YouTube Kids app. According to a Spin Master executive, “We know from our research that these kids are already on YouTube in massive numbers.” YouTube, of course, is just one method Google uses to help it reach and monetize young people. It is also “building successful apps and games” for its “Google Play for Education and Kids vertical,” helping developers create “commercially viable offerings to educators and students, parents and kids.” The popularity of YouTube among children has triggered a “must-have-the-video-network” buying strategy from companies targeting the youth market worldwide. Marketers researching youth know that kids are using YouTube as a search engine because it includes pictures, videos, and other audio-visual material. It’s also “easy to navigate” for children, with reports that “kids who are into watching TV episodes on YouTube” like to see other episodes and “recommended videos” on the sidebar. More critically, digital market researchers studying children have identified YouTube as providing an important social and creative outlet for tweens, and finding cool YouTube videos to share with others is a form of social capital. … [T]weens most frequently share cool videos when hanging out (in person) with their friends and family. … [W]e call this phenomenon clustersharing. … [I]t speaks more to their desire to physically experience videos with others—to see, to feel and to share that experience, including their thoughts and emotions. The same researchers advise marketers to take advantage of the “clustersharing (link is external)” concept, and encourage ways to “enhance that in-person, social experience. Using ad content (like a group game) or finding a way to alleviate the agonizing “live” wait of a 15-second pre-roll between each video presents “an opportunity to enrich your brand experience with this very engaged audience.” Tracking our “Consumer Journey” Google is in the forefront of digital marketing companies promising to help its clients influence and “measure” what it calls the “customer journey.” It views itself as helping them analyze and place each consumer on a continuous “path-to-purchase (link is external)” cycle, tracking us wherever we go, and using its resources to have us shop “until we drop”—online and off. Among the benefits Google promises its advertisers, for example, is that they will be able to identify and “value” their “best customers,” and “distinguish the whales from the wasted energy.” (“Whales” is a marketing industry term describing a big spender; “waste” is an ad term for a consumer deemed not valuable.) YouTube conducts research (link is external) to document how its advertisers positively impact our “recall” of various brand commercial messages. Google’s DoubleClick division, which uses data to determine the impact of video ads, offers advertisers the latest ways they can “verify” whether a person actually views a video ad on YouTube. To help its largest advertising clients measure how we respond to Google’s interactive marketing services, the company is now working with Nielsen and comScore, two of the leading global companies that assess consumer interaction with ads, including on YouTube. There are other companies also helping marketers analyze YouTube data. For example, Outrigger’s “OpenSlate (link is external)” platform “ingests, analyses and scores more than 220,000 YouTube channels on measures of engagement, consistency, influence, momentum and ad effectiveness.” (It now is up to 250,000 channels.) It “supplements YouTube data on more than 70 million videos with data from social media and proprietary demographic data. Our platform consistently incorporates brand advertising performance data to further develop video and channel level profiles.” Through its information, brand advertisers can identify “the highest-quality inventory on YouTube,” and then target them using a variety of Big Data tactics. (“Inventory,” as used by the online marketing industry, can either refer to individual users or programming content. Kids and teens are seen as highly valuable “inventory.”) Time for Regulatory Action Against Google to Protect Kids Google, as the dominant digital marketing company, has raised numerous concerns about its corporate practices, including from privacy regulators, civil liberties advocates, and competition regulators from around the world. (The company has led an anti-privacy-regulation agenda in both the U.S. and EU, to ensure that the flow of personal data that makes its interactive marketing system run will never end.) Its latest move to better monetize children through YouTube Kids is the first of what will be a succession of profit-generating ventures that help transform kids’ lives into a never-ending commercial. Even Facebook, which expressed interest in targeting children 13 and younger, has not yet directly entered the kids market. Google’s brazen move to cash in on our kids will likely spur Facebook to jettison any reticence to include them on its social network. After all, why should Google gain all the profits from this new, lucrative, and influential audience? Beyond federal and state investigations into Google’s brazen targeting of children on YouTube, what’s needed now are new policies that ensure young people aren’t unfairly treated by digital marketers. This includes rules that don’t leave children and teens vulnerable to digital marketing practices and also better protect their privacy. For example, Google is at the forefront of companies using what is called “immersive” media, to make sure brands—including on YouTube—can “grab” our attention. All of the data gathered from our use of mobile phones, social media, and online video feed so-called “profiles” that are used to target us for advertising—increasingly regardless of location (think of a mobile discount coupon from a nearby fast food outlet appearing on children’s phones as they come out of school) and in real-time (right as you are in the store cereal or toy aisle). These practices are highly questionable when targeting adults, let alone young people. Companies like Google should develop their own policies that actually protect and empower young people—not just turn them into the latest profit center. A global leader like Google, with immense profits, should only be offering kids commercial- (and data targeting-) free content. It shouldn’t be helping junk food and toy companies take advantage of kids to sell them products that don’t promote their development and health. It is doubtful, however, that Google will change course. It is, after all, primarily an advertising company whose allegiance is to the biggest brands and the marketing industry. It’s time for activist shareholders of Google and other companies to press for the adoption of new corporate policies that protect young people in the digital age. Parents will have to decide whether Google’s corporate culture, focused as it is on promoting marketing to young kids, is incompatible with their values and goals. But it will also take a movement of parents, educators, public interest groups, and policymakers to force Google and other kids marketers to act responsibly. If we want to see the next generation grow up without being greatly influenced by the most powerful advertising apparatus yet developed, this is a fight we must join.