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Guidance for Members Working with Partners on Health Advertising

The NAI has been pleased with the positive response to its Guidance for NAI Members: Health Audience Segments (Guidance), and we continue to receive questions from member companies about the applicability of this document to various digital advertising products and scenarios.

One of the questions the NAI has fielded on several occasions relates to how the Guidance applies to non-member companies, typically in the form of advertisers. Together with the 2020 Code of Conduct (Code), the Guidance document establishes steps NAI members may take when creating audience segments for medications and treatments for various health conditions. 

The central premise of the Guidance is tied to the creation of audiences that rely only on demographic information, such as age or gender, and that are large enough to encompass at least ten percent of the total population, thus helping to preserve consumer privacy, and reducing the likelihood of singling out specific users who may actually suffer from a given condition.

However, the Code and Guidance apply only to NAI member companies, and NAI members often make audience segments available to advertisers who then choose to display advertising campaigns to the consumers in those audience segments. Can NAI members permit advertisers or other non-members to modify audiences created based on the Guidance with non-demographic data and/or by refining the audience size so that it becomes smaller than the ten percent threshold discussed in the Guidance? The answer is “no,” unless the non-member has received Opt-In Consent from consumers.

The NAI recognizes that it may not always be possible for member companies to police the uses of data that has been licensed to third-parties, and the NAI does not typically hold members accountable for what others may do with data that has been licensed to them. Nonetheless, the NAI expects member companies to place contractual and (when possible) technical restrictions on the use of data by clients and partners, to help ensure that such uses are consistent with the NAI Code and Guidance documents. These practices help spread the NAI’s high standards for consumer privacy beyond NAI membership, to the broader digital advertising ecosystem, including publishers, advertisers, and others.