What is AdChoices? A marketer’s guide

AdChoices is a program developed and run in the US, Canada, and Europe that’s designed to protect users’ privacy and give them control over their data when they’re being targeted with ads that are based on their browsing history. (This is often called “interest-based advertising,” “online behavioral advertising,” or “behavioral targeting.”)

AdChoices is implemented with a tiny icon in the top right corner of ads, which looks like this:

What is AdChoices? AdChoices example

Users can click on the triangle icon to find out more about why the ad is showing, and to learn how to turn off interest-based advertising.

From a marketer’s perspective, AdChoices helps you improve your users’ experience. It gives users greater control, as they can visit the YourAdChoices site to turn off behavioral advertising from a whole range of companies.

Note: If you’re seeing a lot of AdChoices ads, including pop-ups or ads that are very intrusive, that might be because you’ve inadvertently installed some “adware” on your computer. You can find information about this, and how to deal with it, here.

What is interest-based advertising?

Interest-based advertising, where ads are tailored to a user’s (probably) interests, might sound similar to remarketing and retargeting.

While you might well use both types of advertising in your business, they’re slightly different:

  • Interest-based advertising looks at people’s browsing behavior across lots of different sites to target them with related ads. For instance, if they’ve been reading about “gardening,” they might see ads for gardening tools – from a completely different website that they’ve never visited before.
  • Remarketing or retargeting shows an ad to people who’ve visited a particular website, or even a specific page on that site. It doesn’t matter what they’ve indicated about their interests through their browsing behavior.

Should you use AdChoices?

YourAdChoices Control - What is AdChoices?

Screenshot via YourAdChoices.com

If you’re running interest-based ads that target users based on their behavior, then you should definitely use AdChoices. It’s an industry-led and agreed standard that helps to make the internet a better place for everyone.

If you don’t use ads that target users based on their past browsing behavior, then AdChoices doesn’t apply to you. However, you might want to at least consider the benefits of this type of marketing, as it lets you target people with ads that are more likely to interest them. 

How do you use AdChoices?

If you create and run your own ads, and you’re going to abide by AdChoice’s requirements for publishers, then you can use Quantcast to set up the AdChoice icon on your website. Note that to use the AdChoice icon, the way in which you advertise should match up to the European advertising industry’s good practice principles

More likely, though, you’ll be using a program like Google AdWords to create ads. In this case, Google itself takes care of implementing AdChoices: you’ll see the AdChoice logo on all of Google’s ads.

Does AdChoices check the sites that are advertising?

AdChoices doesn’t vet the sites that are advertising; it simply gives people the opportunity to opt-out of targeted advertising.

If you run advertising on your own site, it’s important that you monitor the ads that are appearing (especially if you’re using an advertising network, rather than selling ad space directly). 

If you purchase advertising elsewhere, it’s important to recognize that the presence of the AdChoices logo itself doesn’t offer any reassurances or guarantees to users about the quality of your product/service. It’s up to you to ensure your ad itself, and your website, is reassuring – and of course that what you’re providing is high-quality. 

As 2-Spyware puts it:

“AdChoices ads might offer useful and reliable products or services; however, they might be dangerous as well. Some ads may redirect you to malicious websites that are created for spreading malware, viruses or install tracking cookies and try to steal your private information. Keep in mind that Ad Choices doesn’t take any responsibility for the trustworthiness of these sites.”

What if users turn off interest-based advertising?

What is AdChoices? YourAdChoices screenshot

Screenshot via YourAdChoices.com

You might be worried about your potential leads switching off interest-based advertising, meaning that your ads might end up being shown to a less targeted audience.

AdChoices doesn’t aim to discourage interest-based advertising, though. In fact, the AdChoices website itself is clear about the benefits of interest-based marketing, explaining to users in their FAQs:

“With ads that are made more relevant based on information about your likely interests, you get ads that are more interesting and useful, helping you to discover new products or a better deal on services you already use. Advertising is the engine that powers much of the content and services that consumers enjoy online. More relevant ads get more clicks, and advertisers pay more for these ads, allowing content and services providers to continue to operate without charging visitors to their sites. Interest-based advertising tries to make the ads you see more relevant through the use of information about the types of sites that you visit across the Web or across the mobile apps that you use.”

Ultimately, AdChoices is designed to be a win for everyone: users, advertisers, and website owners. 

If you have customers or visitors to your website from the European Union, you need to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). That means you need to get your users’ permission to collect their data for advertising purposes, such as retargeting or remarketing ads. The GDPR Compliance Tool from ShareThis, a consent management tool that leverages the IAB framework, makes compliance easy. It’s simple to install and offers a seamless user experience, so you can continue growing your site with confidence.