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NAI Releases Results of 2011 Compliance Review

Today, the NAI released its 2011 Annual Compliance Report, the third annual report published under the 2008 NAI Code of Conduct. The results of our 2011 annual review are encouraging. Overall, our member companies continue to meet the obligations of the NAI Code and to adopt best practices even where not required by the Code. Here, we summarize a few key findings:

Transparency: In 2011, our member companies vastly increased the transparency of online behavioral advertising (OBA). Our members, early adopters of in-ad notice, have been instrumental in rolling out the DAA’s Advertising Options Icon, an icon that is served tens of billions of times a day. Our members also ramped up efforts to educate consumers about OBA, collectively contributing 4.1 billion ad impressions to the NAI’s education campaign. Those ad impressions lead users to the NAI’s education site, which saw 2.5 million unique visits in 2011, a five-fold increase in visitors over the prior year. Members also began in 2011 to disclose the interest segments related to health that they use for OBA in accordance with the NAI’s new health transparency policy.

Choice: As a result of our members’ efforts to increase the transparency of OBA practices, traffic to the NAI website increased dramatically, with 8.5 million unique user visits in 2011. Six million unique users visited the NAI opt out site, and 840,000 opted out of one or more NAI member company on the NAI’s opt out page. These numbers suggest that users are increasingly aware of OBA practices and the choices available to them.

Looking forward: As in past years, we used the compliance process not only to assess the state of our members’ compliance and spread best practice recommendations, but also to identify areas in which we think the NAI and its members could do better. To that end, the report recommends that the NAI increase its technical monitoring, and that members be required to regularly report the domains they are using for OBA to supplement that monitoring. We think these additions to our compliance process will help ensure that user choice is reliably and fully honored at all times.

We believe that 2012 will see even more advances for the NAI and self-regulation. We expect transparency to continue to increase at an exponential rate through the continued deployment of the Advertising Options Icon, through educational banner ads, and through other innovative tools. As noted, we intend to add further accountability to our compliance program in the form of increased technical monitoring. We will review even more companies — we reviewed 23 companies as part of our first compliance review in 2009, 34 in 2010, and 60 in 2011 — and we expect to review more than 80 in 2012. By 2013, we expect to review more than 100 companies. As a result, each year, more companies not only agree to abide by the principles encompassed in the NAI Code, but also are held to those promises through our compliance process. To keep pace with this growth in membership, we plan on bringing on additional staff dedicated to compliance. We also plan to update our website to make it easier for users to find relevant information and to opt out if they wish. We think these changes will benefit our members and consumers alike.

We are proud of the work we do in our annual compliance reviews and throughout the year to help ensure the ongoing compliance of our growing membership with the NAI Code and NAI policies. Our compliance program includes not only reactive investigations into allegations or evidence of non-compliance, but also proactive, in-depth examinations of members’ business practices and policies on an annual basis. It also helps to inform the development of NAI policies by identifying new technologies, best practices, and evolving business models. We are delighted to work with member companies who, on the whole, express commitment to and a desire to learn from the compliance review process. We are excited to continue and improve our compliance program in 2012.

If you would like to learn more about our findings and our plans for the future, we encourage you to read the 2011 Annual Compliance Report and accompanying press release.

–Meredith Halama, Assistant General Counsel for Compliance

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