Publishings Digital Citizen

  • AppNexus has launched a new programme which it claims allows advertisers to say “goodbye to the black box” and use their data more effectively. The ad tech company has today announced the launch of AppNexus Programmable Bidder (APB), enabling buyers to “bring their own algorithms” and plug them directly into the firm’s infrastructure. Available to only a handful of clients, the product will eventually be opened up to all clients with their own data sets. Advertisers will set the parameters for the campaign, while AppNexus will manage bidding, reporting and engineering. According to AppNexus co-founder Brian O’Kelley, this king of “real-time algorithmic bidding” with “revolutionise” marketing, but allowing advertisers to “refine and adapt”. Speaking to M&M Global, Catherine Williams, chief data scientist at AppNexus, said the scheme offers a “middle way” for brands with data science processed in place, but without the funds to build their own bidding infrastructure. “[Advertisers] have either had to take their data to a third party and plug it into a black box, and the third party promise to use the data to get the best results, or build their own infrastructure, which is an enormous engineering and maintenance project,” said Williams. Full article available at (link is external)
  • There is a growing and much needed debate (link is external) on the role that algorithms and machine-driven decision making play in our lives. The use of “Black Box (link is external)” assessments of individuals to determine what kind of financial product to offer is raising (link is external) legitimate concerns about discrimination and unfair practices. Why are some people targeted for a high-cost payday or higher interest credit card, for example, while others receive better terms and conditions? The answer to such questions can be found inside the “Black Box,” in which there are very clear objectives from businesses designed to effectively use all the new power they now have due to the merging of “Big Data” technologies with our always-connected (and data-generating) online way of life. Corporations have armed themselves with the latest tools to harvest and analyze the ever-growing flow of information available. Through (link is external) “Data Management Platforms,” alliances (link is external) with giant data brokers, and through effective use of the powerful digital (link is external) marketing apparatus created by Google, (link is external) Facebook (link is external) and many others, financial, retail, grocery, health, education and nearly every other sector can make decisions about an individual in lightening speed. Companies can now reach us with offers in milliseconds, regardless (link is external) of whether we are using a mobile phone, personal computer or other connected devices. Over the next few months, we will explore the business models driving the “Black Box.” But today we will examine one crucial element that enables companies to so easily take advantage of our information to assess and influence our behavior. So-called programmatic (link is external) advertising is a data-driven system that allows companies to “buy and sell” individuals in real time when they are online or using their mobile device. In today’s digital marketplace, our “profiles”—the information gleaned about who we are and what we do—is traded as a commodity. Pioneered in the U.S. by Yahoo, Google (link is external), Rubicon Project (link is external), Appnexus (link is external) and others, this little known system is quickly dominating how online marketing and advertising operates throughout the world (link is external). Programmatic advertising relies on superfast computers that keep tabs on where we are online, so we can either be sold to the highest or special-interest bidder or labeled as someone not worth targeting at all (in ad terms, these people are classified as “waste (link is external)”). Regulators in the U.S. and EU (link is external) have not done a good job addressing the privacy and consumer-protection concerns raised by programmatic marketing. It’s a key area in which CDD has played a role advocating for a more responsible regulatory approach. But for now, we want to highlight some of the features of programmatic marketing by excerpting from the new “Adgorithms” (link is external) IPO (which just went public in the UK). We think the excerpts provide an opportunity for the public to peer inside an important part of the “Black Box” machine that is increasingly dominating our lives. Take a look and we will return soon with a discussion. For more information on programmatic advertising, see (link is external) and (link is external). Excerpt: Business Overview The Company's software, Albert, is a proprietary artificial intelligence based programmatic platform, which plans, identifies, prices and delivers relevant advertisements in multiple fields of online advertising. Using complex algorithms, historical data and artificial intelligence, Albert seeks to predict user intent and deliver advertisements that are likely to engage that particular user and result in higher engagement for the brand. It analyses the available advertising opportunities on the advertising exchanges, decides which one of them is most relevant and ultimately determines the right price to pay for a specific impression. The advert is then displayed on the screen of the user. This whole process occurs in under a second. Self-learning The accuracy of Albert improves with every online advertisement it delivers, as it incorporates new data whilst continuing to learn from previous data. This ability of Albert enables it to adapt to changes in the marketplace in order to capitalize on opportunities and to minimize purchasing of non-effective inventory, including fraudulent advertising activity. Understanding of consumer behavior patterns Albert has powerful and actionable insights into consumer behavioral patterns and web properties that it can leverage, such that the Directors believe it is able to target the most relevant audience for a particular advertising campaign more effectively, and achieve KPIs set by brands quicker and more cost effectively, than its peers. Adgorithms offers clients targeted online advertising via demographic, geographic location, time of day and behavioral characteristics. Direct Adgorithms works directly with companies who wish to advertise their goods and services, and also with media agencies working on their behalf to optimize advertising campaigns. At the outset of an engagement, the Company is supplied with creative materials, such as a banner or video advertisement, a pre-defined KPI to launch an advertising campaign and an advertising budget. Examples of KPIs include a number of user click-through on a banner or a user watching a video advertisement for a specified period of time. The creative materials and KPIs are inputted into and processed by Albert, following which it bids for impressions in real time based on observed or predicted user intent. Albert will then optimize the performance of the campaign until the KPI is reached. Albert does this by using its own data and also proprietary data that its clients provide (including data in relation to which users have the highest value to the client), contributing to the feedback loop. By using Albert to determine the right price to pay for a particular impression, the Company has a proven ability to maximize ROI from a client's advertising budget and reduce customer CPA. The automation of the campaign management by Albert also minimises the need for human intervention, creating efficiencies and reducing labour costs for the advertiser, and particularly for media agencies (which often manage many campaigns concurrently). ALBERT The Company's technology solution enables online advertisers to efficiently and effectively engage and convert customers. Its solution is comprised of the Adgorithms software, called Albert, data assets, the feedback loop and access to display, video, mobile and social advertising inventory through the online advertising exchanges. Overview On a daily basis, the Company is presented with billions of opportunities to deliver an advertisement to users when advertising impressions become available through the various advertising exchanges. For each impression that becomes available, the Company has realtime software systems that recommend an advertiser's specific creatives (e.g. banners or videos) based on a prediction of the likelihood of a user engaging with an advertisement. Albert is designed to determine the most appropriate advertisement to show to the user and determines what price to pay for the advertising impression. The core of the Company's solution involves: · determining a user's engagement with display advertisements, which is a relatively rare event that requires a large sample size of relevant data to accurately predict; · obtaining a large sample size of relevant data, which is difficult, in particular where the most relevant data points are also the most sparse e.g. very recent data on specific product interest; and · building powerful, scalable and flexible systems that operate both accurately and quickly, between the time a user navigates to a page and an advertisement is delivered. Albert is designed to continuously download data from advertising exchanges, analysing and storing it in its internal database. It then re-calibrates its prediction models so that the prediction and bidding are constantly up to date with new media sources available through the exchanges and with the ever-changing pricing and quality landscape of existing media. As those internal predictions are updated in Albert, they are propagated to the various exchanges so that customer's campaigns running in the exchanges can bid more aggressively for opportunities that are considered positive for that advertiser, and less aggressively or not at all for opportunities the software now considers less favourable. To achieve those performance goals, Albert acquires hundreds of gigabytes of data daily, containing information on impressions, engagements and conversions, and performs tens of thousands of updates every hour. It collects and analyses information on millions of online websites and mobile applications that are available for it to advertise in, evaluating the performance of each of the campaigns it manages in those websites and based on that generates prediction for future performance of advertising campaigns in relevant media spots. Using this feedback loop, Albert is able to choose from the tens of billions of available opportunities daily, the hundreds of millions of impressions it predicts would be optimal for its customers.
    Jeff Chester
  • Mobile has forever changed the way we live, and it’s forever changed what we expect of brands. It’s fractured the consumer journey into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven micro-moments. Each one is a critical opportunity for brands to shape our decisions and preferences. Full article available at (link is external)
  • Nielsen today announced that it has completed its acquisition of Innerscope Research and has renamed its combined offering as Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience. The combined entity is thought to be the largest consumer neuroscience organization in the world. Boston-based Innerscope has been a leader in integrating multiple tools of consumer neuroscience, combining biometrics, neurometrics and psychometrics to deliver unprecedented understanding of consumer behavior. By adding Innerscope’s best-in-class biometrics and facial coding technologies plus additional expertise in eye tracking and integrating self-report to its EEG and other technologies, Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience offers one comprehensive suite of conscious and non-conscious research solutions on a global scale. The unique and unparalleled insights gained from these combined technologies will empower clients to make even more informed and strategic business decisions with greater confidence and greater return on investment. “Through this acquisition, we will deliver to clients unprecedented understanding of consumer behavior that helps brands build deeper connections and optimize product and communication performance,” said Joe Willke, President for Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience. “We are delighted to welcome Innerscope Research into the Nielsen family.” Full article available at (link is external)
  • Washington, DC – Friday, May 1 – Thank you, Representative Kind, for that warm introduction, and for your leadership of the New Democrat Coalition. The Coalition’s American Prosperity Agenda recognizes the role that smart economic policy can play in sharpening the competitive edge that makes America home to the world’s finest innovators. Your commitment to advancing polices to ensure that the Internet remains open, free, and a platform for global innovation is something that we at USTR share. It is also a key impetus for many of the digital economy initiatives I will describe today. I would also like to thank Simon Rosenberg and the entire team at NDN for providing me with a platform to explain how the Obama Administration is transforming the rules of international trade to promote the digital economy. As many here today know, Simon and NDN have been early champions in encouraging the United States to play a leadership role in establishing a solid policy foundation to support the global digital economy. For this reason, I could think of no better context in which to shine a spotlight on the comprehensive package of trade rules that the United States is currently negotiating and to explain why the Obama Administration has made promoting the digital economy a key component of its trade agenda. I am speaking today about the digital economy and trade as a 21st century leadership imperative, because we stand at a cross road. The rules we have in place in the international trading system—historically championed by the U.S. I will add—have served us well, so far. They have helped enable the explosive growth of the Internet and dissemination of new technology, and have led to rapid changes that have brought us closer together, allowed us to trade across borders, and that have allowed some of the world’s greatest innovations to emanate from our shores. However, as someone who has worked at the intersection of technology and international trade for over two decades, I can speak with confidence when I say this: the trading rules that have helped us get to where we are today are no longer sufficient. They are no longer sufficient in light of the seismic changes in the way that technology is evolving. They are no longer sufficient in the face of new barriers that are being erected. Barriers that if allowed to proliferate will stand in the way of innovation and impede the ability for U.S. innovators to succeed in the digital future as they have in the digital past. One of the most important aspects of President Obama’s 21st century trade agenda is centered on the digital economy and digital trade. It is this agenda that I am glad we can talk about today. I call the rules I will describe today our “digital dozen.” Before I get to that it should be said that we are negotiating many more disciplines in our trade agreements to support the free flow of goods, services, and data across the Internet. But the dozen rules I will describe in detail today, building on other fundamentals of the agreements we are negotiating, will help ensure that the digital economy and the Internet remain as central to America’s competitiveness and prosperity in the next 20 years as they have been in the past 20. The principles we are looking at today are designed to secure not only our ability to compete in the 21st century digital economy, but also the very parameters of that economy itself. Our digital agenda is designed to address questions such as: •Will the Internet continue to remain open, accessible, and free? •Will the Internet drive growth as powerfully in the next 20 years as it did in the last 20? •Will the Internet continue to create opportunities for small businesses, deliver high-quality health care and financial services to rural areas and marginalized people, and continue to fulfill its promise to lift people out of poverty and oppression? •Or will it become fractious and balkanized, disintegrating into regional and national networks that our farmers, exporters, creators and innovators can only access for an exacting price? Full article available at (link is external)
  • Blog

    Nielsen Launches Digital Ad Ratings in China

    Developed in Conjunction with Industry Leader Tencent; Digital Ad Ratings Brings Accountability and Accelerates Growth of Digital Advertising in One of World’s Largest Markets

    Beijing – May 28, 2015 – Nielsen (NYSE: NLSN) today announced the launch of Digital Ad Ratings (link is external) in China in collaboration with Tencent, further expanding the solution’s global footprint. Currently available in eight other markets (Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, U.K. and U.S.), Digital Ad Ratings has become the industry standard for digital campaign measurement globally. In addition to China, Nielsen will be launching the service in six more markets this year. Digital Ad Ratings, powered in China by Tencent’s more than 800-million active user accounts and Nielsen’s high-quality calibration sources, provides the unique audience, reach, frequency and gross rating points (GRPs) for a campaign’s full digital audience across computers, tablets and smartphones in a way comparable to TV. The solution will bring to the market accountability and comparability for brand marketers, advertising agencies and publishers who have been seeking measurement to better understand the true audience of their digital campaigns across devices. “The launch of Digital Ad Ratings in the Chinese market reflects Nielsen’s ability to grow and adapt services to meet the needs of clients in today’s fast-changing world,” said Yan Xuan, President of Greater China, Nielsen. “Given the explosive growth of online and mobile usage and Chinese consumers’ changing media habits, we believe the introduction of a robust, independent measurement standard for digital campaigns is essential to unlocking additional digital ad growth in China.” “As China’s leading internet giant, Tencent shoulders the responsibility and mission for creating a set of standards for China’s Internet-based advertising’s ecosystem. Due to the explosive development of the Internet and a fragmented media landscape, the current measurement system for digital and mobile advertising needs to be further improved to ensure that it is independent, reliable and accurate,” said SY Lau, Senior Executive Vice President of Tencent and President of its Online Media Group (OMG). “Nielsen has taken the initiative and leveraged its global expertise to develop Digital Ad Ratings in China, while powering the platform with Tencent’s big data.” “This is a really big milestone, it’s something that we’ve been waiting for. We all need these as advertisers. It will make our advertising much more efficient. I think it will actually change completely the way we talk with our consumers, the way we deal with data, and also just the way we target our advertising,” said Anthony Ho, Marketing Director – Media, Mondelez. Full article available at (link is external)
  • 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)
  • 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.
  • 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)