Understanding
Online Advertising

What Is It?

Online Advertising is a broad term used to describe the paid advertising that publishers put on their websites to enable them to provide you content and services for free. But what most people hear about is a specific type of online advertising that is tailored to your likely interests by companies promoting their products or services. This is known as Interest-Based Advertising (IBA) or Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA).

Interest-Based Advertising is why you see ads that are relevant to you. With this type of advertising, NAI member companies and advertisers collect information across some of the sites you visit. They then use this information to try to predict what ads might be the most interesting to you.

Essentially, the free content you enjoy may be used to help serve ads that you would find more meaningful, informative, and interesting, than would the guy sitting next to you. Reading an article about travel? You’ll probably see ads for travel shortly after. Check out a musician’s website? You might get some ads for music popping up soon too.

Interest-Based Advertising doesn’t depend on information that may be personally identifiable to you such as your name, phone number, Social Security number, etc. In fact, most third-party companies don’t want to know who you are for Interest-Based Advertising. They only want to link interest categories (loves travel) or demographic data (male under 30) with your browser so that they can serve up relevant ads. Of course, different companies use different methods of Interest-Based Advertising.

How does it work?

With Interest-Based Advertising, NAI member companies help advertisers show relevant ads -- matching these ads with broad interest categories or groups like "male clothing shoppers 25-34" or "car buyers in Illinois."

NAI members distinguish between visitors to a site, assigning them to broad interest category groups using information such as the types of websites or pages visited. For NAI members, Interest-Based Advertising is not about you as an identifiable individual. Instead, NAI member companies make educated guesses about the preferences and interests of randomly identified website visitors like you.    MORE ›