Grassroots Privacy Group Safecount Turns to Profit-Driven Goals

By Kate Kaye, The ClickZ Network, Aug 1, 2007

Sometimes old industry initiatives don't die, they just morph into feel-good revenue-generators. Take Safecount. The industry coalition formed in 2005 to develop safe online measurement policies, but eventually day jobs and industry barriers got in the way of progress. Today the group has reemerged as a profit-making venture, leveraging its security-exuding brand name in the hopes of convincing more people to join in online ad effectiveness surveys. And participants just might learn a little about cookies along the way.

Today, Safecount exists primarily to help cross-media brand research outfit Dynamic Logic score more people to partake in its online ad effectiveness studies. Safecount in its current iteration can be thought of as an offshoot of Kantar, WPP's research arm, which counts Millward Brown and its subsidiary Dynamic Logic among its flock of research and consulting organizations. The original Safecount was co-founded by Dynamic Logic CEO Nick Nyhan.

Due to privacy concerns about data collection, and a general -- and sometimes misinformed -- fear of cookies, people have grown more leery of participating in online surveys, such as the ones Dynamic Logic relies on to help clients from Bloomberg to Sara Lee understand the impact of their ads.

"We've seen cooperation rates�go from 1 to 5 percent four to five years ago down to well below 1 percent," said Safecount COO Tom Kelly, in regards to survey participant numbers. "It's an ecosystem that is eroding," he continued.

So Dynamic Logic and company, acting as inaugural clients of Safecount 2.0, will begin branding all survey invites with the Safecount name. Included in those invites will be promos for a new site where users can view the data collected by Safecount cookies. They can see a list of recently-viewed ads and ad creative, what sites they've seen the ads on and the number of times they've seen them. The site also lets users limit the number of invites they get each month and allows them to opt out from receiving them altogether.

"That's a great way to build our brand in the eyes of consumers," said Kelly. Dynamic Logic serves up billions of invites on publisher partner sites each year in an effort to recruit the two million people who end up completing its surveys about the ads they've seen.

Some users might feel inundated with survey requests from multiple research firms, and juggling what surveys from which research firms are running at any given time can be a headache for site publishers. That's where Safecount's profit-driven goals come in. Its survey management platform product for publishers, Veranda, acts as a central hub for survey reports and can connect with any research firm's technology. The company aims to sell the platform for use by other research outfits.

"We're bringing the concept of inventory management to research," said to Safecount Executive Director Jeff Landi. He said it's been a challenge to accommodate the research demands of advertisers while recognizing publishers are "paranoid about upsetting users with too many survey invitations."

Later this year Safecount will begin promoting its site more heavily through its survey invites to drive consumer awareness of how its cookies work. The campaign will follow in the footsteps of companies like Tacoda, which also used its own ad space to educate consumers about cookies. The firm ran display ads last year in its behavioral targeting network that linked to information on how its technology employs cookies to target ads.

Those involved in developing the new Safecount operation realize providing information on what data their own cookies collect will offer a mere glimpse into the nuanced world of Web cookies, which are disseminated by countless companies to track all sorts of online interactions for a myriad of purposes.

It's a good first step, though, said Kelly. "It will be eye-opening for them�.We're trying to crack the surface a little bit."

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