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The NAI Unveils Best Practices for Health Advertising

New best practices advocate for the use of demographic data for health advertising, rather than sensitive personal health information.

WASHINGTON, DC (November 8, 2023) – The Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) today released recommended best practices outlining how companies can utilize demographic consumer data for health-related advertising. This guidance bolsters consumer privacy protections around sensitive consumer health information, while also providing for effective health advertising to benefit consumers and healthcare professionals.

“Companies can have impactful digital health marketing campaigns while respecting consumer privacy,” said Leigh Freund, NAI President and CEO. “Ideally, these best practices will have an impact beyond the NAI’s members, who tend to be the most privacy-focused digital advertising companies. We developed these best practices in consultation with leading advertisers, privacy legal experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders with the hope that they will become a baseline across the digital advertising industry.”

Data-driven health advertising is a valuable tool that helps connect consumers and health care professionals (HCPs) with medical treatments, medications, or information they genuinely need or want, as well as coupons and discounts for medications. Data-driven health advertising helps consumers by connecting them with relevant information, which can improve health equity and empower individual citizens to control their own health.

“Health-related advertising can drive early awareness of health conditions and treatments,” said Freund. “The earlier a person is made aware of a relevant condition or treatment, the greater their opportunity to secure a positive health outcome.”

It is essential that benefits of health-related advertising are achieved in a manner that protects consumer privacy. This objective is at the core of the NAI’s mission as the leading privacy self-regulatory association for the advertising technology industry. The NAI has promoted the strongest voluntary industry standards around the use of sensitive data, including sensitive health data. As a result, NAI members play an important role in educating consumers about various medications and treatments that may be relevant to them, while adhering to strong privacy practices.

The best practices distinguish between sensitive health data that requires consumer consent under new privacy laws and regulations, and broader demographic data like age and gender. The use of this broad demographic data allows advertisers to reach consumers with ads that are likely to be more relevant to them, while also protecting consumer privacy.

The best practices address the type of audience attributes that should be used (or not used) to create and target demographic segments for health-related marketing, strategies for good data stewardship, standards for minimum sizes of modeled audience segments, and approaches to provide transparency into audience segmentation practices.

The best practices are applicable to the broader digital advertising industry, including ad tech companies, advertisers, retailers, and publishers looking to better understand their own customers and audiences, or to vet vendors who provide demographic audience segments.

Kate Cox-Nowak

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