CMA submission to OPC Consultation on Online Interest Based Advertising

In a world where daily schedules are stretched and consumers are regularly bombarded with product information, interest-based advertising offers a partial antidote to modern information overload. Consumers today expect more control of their online environment and are generally more aware of the privacy concerns and security risks related to the handling of personal information. The Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) believes that online interest-based advertising can respond to both challenges where marketers are careful to respect the fair information principles embedded in the Personal Information & Electronic Documents Protection Act (PIPEDA).

The difference between an intrusive advertisement and useful information about a product or service is largely based on the relevance of the message to the intended audience. Internet technology has responded to that dichotomy by refining the ability of advertisers to more accurately respond to consumer needs and interests. This occurs where individual websites or online advertising networks gather information about a consumer’s web-surfing activities and use that data to determine the marketing messages that are likely to be of interest to that consumer, without the need to know who the consumer really is. It amounts to an effort to further customize the online experience for consumers generally while at the same time increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the advertising that supports so much of the content made available online.

Advertising on the Internet is a key and growing driver of economic prosperity in Canada. The Canadian Marketing Association’s 2007 Marketing’s Contribution to the Canadian Economy or “Economic Impact Study” found that online advertising has been increasing at average annual growth rates of 25 to 50 percent. Online advertising expenditures are projected to more than double from $1.4 billion in 2007 to $3.3 billion in 2011. In 2007, Internet advertising generated $17.7 billion in sales of goods and services, in turn supporting an estimated 75,000 jobs. With its tremendous growth, by 2011 online advertising is projected to outperform all other channels by generating $46.6 billion in sales and supporting some 200,000 Canadian jobs.