Harvard’s Edelman Proposes A Bill Of Rights For Online Advertisers

It’s time for an online advertisers bill of rights. So says Harvard assistant professor Ben Edelman, who has spent years researching Internet advertising and compares the current landscape to a “wild west.” Edelman recognizes the “staggering” opportunity that online advertising provides, but says the current system has problems that “threaten to destabilize online advertising—wasting advertisers’ budgets, slowing transition to online formats, and reducing payments to online publishers.”

In his just-published proposal, Edelman outlines five-point bill of rights for anyone advertising online:

  1. An advertiser’s right to know where its ads are shown.
  2. An advertiser’s right to meaningful, itemized billing.
  3. An advertiser’s right to use its data as it sees fit.
  4. An advertiser’s right to enjoy the fruits of its advertising campaigns.
  5. An advertiser’s right to resolve disputes fairly and transparently.

Edelman uses Google’s advertising services and policies as examples throughout his proposal, sharing specific examples of practices that he says are harmful to advertisers. He says many of the “starkest problems” can be traced to Google’s online ad system:

“Google does not tell advertisers where their ads will be shown, omits itemized billing, limits how advertisers can use and transfer their own data, and insists on convoluted dispute resolution. Why such one-sided terms from Google?”

Edelman says he hopes his report leads to “improvements in at least the norms and expectations, if not the regulation, of online advertising.”

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | Microsoft: Bing Ads | Search Ads: General | Yahoo: Search Ads


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/ Matt Cutts

    To give the story some extra background, you might want to mention to mention that Ben Edelman has Microsoft as a client (http://www.benedelman.org/bio/ ) and sued Google in the past year or so regarding ads (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2008/10/harvard-prof-sues-google-over-ads-on-typosquatted-domains.ars ).

    Otherwise, it’s kind of like that TechCrunch article by Eric Clemons (http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/03/01/what-an-antitrust-case-against-google-might-look-like/ ) where no one disclosed that Eric was a part of the “Alliance against Bait and Click” (http://www.stopscads.org/aboutus.html ) which included Eric and then a lot of other groups that dislike some search engines’ keyword advertising principles (Rosetta Stone, 1800 Contacts, etc.). By the way, Ben Edelman is a part of that organization too, according to http://www.stopscads.org/aboutus.html . Providing some context and history can be helpful for readers.

  • Matt McGee

    Thanks for the extra links, Matt. Background is always good.

    But actually, you’re wrong to say my article is like the TechCrunch piece by Eric Clemons. I’m nothing more than a reporter above and have no direct involvement in any legal cases. You say Mr. Clemons IS involved in legal cases, so the analogy would hold more weight if we’d published an article by Mr. Edelman himself (and if we failed to disclose his ties).

  • http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/ Matt Cutts

    Hey Matt, I didn’t mean to imply that you had any involvement–sorry that my comment was unclear. You do a great job of writing about the search space impartially and I appreciate your stories. I agree there’s a huge difference between the Eric Clemons piece (which he wrote himself) versus your piece. The only reason I mention the Clemons piece is that in the same way that it’s helpful to have more context on Eric Clemons, it’s also helpful to have more context on Ben Edelman.

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