Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you are already aware of the various 3rd party companies that use scripts to market their products or services to you or to find out how you use websites. As Ghostery users, you are among the privileged few Internet users that know of this quickly growing phenomenon and care about it. You gain access to company profiles through our nifty info bubbles and probably just as often do research on your own to boot.
But did you know that many of these companies wear multiple “data hats”? One company may be collecting data via 3rd party scripts and at the same time advertising to you. Another could be trading in your data but not collecting it directly. Another could be merely a piece of technology that facilitates any of these actions. These companies are incredibly complex, and this often leads people to demonize them:
(via Terry at GCA Savvian)
But everyone knows that we wouldn’t get to read The New York Times for free if it wasn’t supported by ads, just in the same way that half of the Sunday paper is pullout advertisements and only costs $3.00. So, the next best thing to no ads at all is transparency and control over the web of information gathered by advertising companies. In order to help our Ghostery users better understand this complex web, we’ve broken these functions down into 16 categories with examples:
1. Advertiser: A company sponsoring advertisement and ultimately responsible for the message delivered to the consumer. Example: AT&T (edited: copy and paste flub with DoubleClick before)
2. Exchange: A provider of marketplace connecting advertisers to ad networks and data aggregators (online and off), often facilitating multiple connections and bidding processes. Example: Right Media
3. Network: A broker and often technology provider connecting advertisers and publishers. (web site operators) Example: Burst Media
4. Online Data Aggregator: Collects data from online publishers and provides it to advertisers either directly or via exchange. Example: BlueKai
5. Offline Data Aggregator: Collects data from a range of offline sources and provides data to advertisers directly or via exchange. Experian
6. Publisher: Website operator who displays ads for advertiser(s) in various types campaigns. Example: The New York Times
7. Optimizer: Provider of analytics technology and services for ROI assessment and content optimization purposes. Example: ROILabs
8. Research: Collects data for market research purposes where no ads are serviced through this data. Example: Example: Safecount
9. Retargeter: Providers of technologies that allow publishers to identify their visitor when they place ads on third party sites. Example: FetchBack
10. Analytics Provider: Provider of cross-platform statistical analysis to understand market effectiveness and audience segmentation. Example: Google Analytics
11. Agency: Provider of creative and buying services (both audience and data) for advertisers. Example: MediaCom
12. Ad Server: Technology that delivers and tracks advertisements independently of the web site where the ad is being displayed. Example: DoubleClick DART
13. Demand-Side Platform: A technology provider that allows marketers to buy inventory across multiple platforms or exchanges. DSPs often layer in custom optimization, audience targeting, real-time bidding and other services. Example: Invite Media
14. Supply-Side Platform: A technology provider that allows publishers to access advertiser demand across multiple platforms or exchanges. SSPs often layer in custom yield optimization, audience creation, real-time bidding and other services. Example: AdMeld
15. Ad Verification: Certifies or classifies webpages in an effort to prevent advertisers’ campaigns from running on unsavory or blocked content, and/or protects advertisers from having other companies run their ads incorrectly. Example: ClickForensics
16. Online Privacy: Technology providers that deliver information and transparency to consumers on how 3rd party companies gather and use their data. Example: Better Advertising
So, for example:
A company like Turn Media is a technology provider that allows marketers to buy inventory across multiple platforms or exchanges, or a Demand-Side Platform. They provide services for marketers and agencies to centrally manage buying, planning, targeting, and optimizing media opportunities. Reasonably speaking, however, you could also technically classify them as an Optimizer because this process is included under the umbrella of the platform. Turn is deeply data driven and partners with multiple data providers including BlueKai, TargusInfo, eXelate, and others. It wasn’t always as full a platform as it is today – over time as the company grew they gradually increased their levels of service and partnered with other businesses.
A company like Safecount is a Research technology company that enables advertisers and media companies to understand the effectiveness of online advertising and marketing programs. They don’t use their data for interest-based advertising (IBA), but they do support the industry by providing in-depth research for them. They only serve one function.
It’s pretty interesting to delve into the vast network of companies that have made it their business to gather and use information about consumers for whatever reasons they may have. Hopefully, through understanding these companies, consumers can someday come to an understanding with them on personal data collection. We here at Ghostery feel that transparency plays a key role in this process.