Google Caught Over-Riding Safari Privacy Settings; Retailers Find Facebook Commerce A Challenge

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Google Shoots Goose

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that “Google Inc. and other advertising companies have been bypassing the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple Inc.’s Web browser on their iPhones and computers—tracking the Web-browsing habits of people who intended for that kind of monitoring to be blocked.” Read the article (subscription). Google claims that overcoming the privacy settings was inadvertent and that was due to its implementation of the Google +1 button and bringing Google services to its logged-in users. Read their response on CNET. Google also says it has since removed the ability for cookies to be set in Safari without a user’s permission. A WSJ TV interview with the Journal’s Jen Valentino intimates that if Google is found to be culpable, Google may owe $16,000 per user PER day PER violation to the U.S. government – since Google was previously put on probation for 20 years by the U.S. in 2011. See the WSJ interview (subscription). Google’s all-hands-on-deck drive toward populating the +1 button across the web – and take on Facebook – appears to have overrun its intentions with online ads and, more importantly, the consumer. With everything at stake for Google and considering the precipice on which it stands with regulators, this violation just seems, well, dumb. Perhaps sacrificial heads will have to roll at Big G to appease regulatory “gods”. The irony in all this is something John Battelle notes in a blog post – that Apple’s “privacy” regulations are really about a firewall against competitors and maintaining a highly profitable, closed ecosystem. Not privacy! Read more. Stanford graduate student Jonathan Mayer explains how it all went down from a technical point-of-view. Read it. WPP’s MIG, Gannett’s PointRoll and Vibrant Media were all caught using a similar method of cookie-ing in Safari says the WSJ. Needless to say, for all of these companies, WPP in particular, this is not something that their brand clients will be happy about. The Washington Post takes a look at each here. Pointroll says their Safari implementation was just a “limited test” here. Vibrant is known for contextual advertising.  A company spokesperson tells AdExchanger, “we use generic cookies for purposes such as frequency capping. Vibrant Media does not collect personally identifiable information from any users.”

Retailers Don’t “Like”

As Facebook’s IPO gets closer, Bloomberg reports that retailers such as J.C. Penney, The Gap and Gamestop have shuttered their Facebook stores since consumers just aren’t buying. Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, who also did not mince words about Groupon prior to its IPO, tells Bloomberg, “There was a lot of anticipation that Facebook would turn into a new destination, a store, a place where people would shop. But it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.” Drink more.

The Agency Trading Desk Debate

CEO Will Margiloff of media platform Ignition One – part of Dentsu-owned Innovation Interactive – takes the agency trading desk (ATD) model at holding companies to task in a think piece on Ad Age. Margiloff chastises ATDs, “Take some risk, align your clients’ goals with yours and create a performance deal on a revenue share or cost per model. If you want to be successful you should always offer the best, most innovative options that will create the greatest results for the clients, not just great margins for you.” Read more. The battle for the marketer’s programmatic buying ad spend is increasingly breaking out into the open as ad networks, trading desks, DSPs, and even agencies battle ATDs – all of whom are using today’s web of real-time ad technology to drive campaign ROI. At a minimum, ATDs are taking away some business that was once the domain of ad networks, where pain is being felt for undifferentiated offerings that can now be replicated by ATDs through exchanges and sell-side platforms. Marketers have, by-and-large, yet to weigh-in publicly. Last November’s Association of National Advertisers whitepaper pointed to the fact that 80% of marketers didn’t know what an ATD was, let alone had an opinion on it. Meanwhile, in other holding company news, Publicis bought back most of the stake that Dentsu had in Publicis. Read it.

More Viewable Impressions

On the blog, vp of product Madhu Vidali continues the thread of conversation orginally ignited by the IAB’s digital measurement guidelines and continued via recent commentary from comScore, Nielsen, C3 Metrics and others. Vidali writes, “For brand marketers, on average 95% of their actual “sales” will occur offline. So directly or indirectly, to be valuable, measurement indicators they pay for – either directly out of pocket, or in marked up CPMs from agencies, networks or publishers – need to be indicators of ROI.Read more.

Ad Network List

On Friday, comScore released its pay-for-play ad network rankings. Compared to December (PDF), there weren’t many changes last month. Download January (PDF). The irony of this list continues to burn – if buyers can globally-frequency cap in real-time across multiple supply-side inventory sources including everything from exchanges to direct-to-publisher, why does the list matter? Answer: as Collective’s Joe Apprendi said in an interview in January, not everyone is aware of it: “You don’t want to not be there for the newbies that are in the planning and buying decision‑making process in some capacity.” And that’s good for comScore.

Opera Developing Mobile Ad Biz

ClickZ’s Susan Kuchiniskas reports that Opera is rounding out its capabilities in mobile web and application environments and has acquired “Mobile Theory and 4th Screen Advertising, two demand-side advertising platforms, rounding out its offerings for mobile publishers and advertisers.” Read more. Opera’s mobile ad services are used by The Wall Street Journal, News Corp, Pandora, Shazam and Zynga according to ClickZ. Read the Opera press release.

Local Data Feed

The New York Times’ Bits blog says that daily deals company Groupon has taken the acquisition plunge and bought a local data startup called Hyperpublic. Terms were not disclosed. Jordan Cooper, CEO and co-founder of Hyperpublic, tells the Times, “The market that we’re playing in is one that Foursquare and Google are playing in. The better Groupon understands the people and local environment that they are trying to drive traffic to, the better they will do.” And the better, presumably, Groupon’s customers will do. Or is it just Groupon’s margins? Read it.

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