Behavioral Retargeting Code of Conduct

The IAB's Affiliate Marketing Council (AMC) has unveiled a new code of conduct for dealing with behavioral retargeting technology. If you are responsible for anything Internet-marketing related, it is an important development and one you should be aware of as retargeting presents an exciting Web promotional opportunity. The AMC hopes to create a "fair and equitable" code to ensure that all parties can continue using the technology with confidence (and, of course, profit). Let's hope it works.


The "self-regulatory" code of conduct will apply to affiliates that run behavioral retargeting activity and primarily addresses "post view" or "post impressions" cookies - but more on that in a moment. Before proceeding, some explanation is definitely in order.


Behavioral retargeting (BR) is method of Web promotion that serves targeted advertising based on a user's previous behavior (such as a user that visits a site without completing a conversion). The behaviorally targeted advertisement can be seen by that user as they travel the Web, encouraging them to return and interact. The ads served are usually bought from ad networks on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) basis. The resulting sales from the ads are rewarded by advertisers/merchants on a CPA basis when operated via affiliate networks.


In order for behavioral retargeting to be effective, many BR companies require Post Impression (PI) or Post View (PV) cookies to be used alongside traditional click cookies. Therein lies the problem. PI/PV cookies are impression-based as opposed to click-based; in other words, a cookie is stored on an impression being served rather than a click. Historically, very few networks or affiliate programs have operated PI/PV cookies, as the more tangible action of a click is seen as more in line with the CPA and sale function of affiliate marketing - rather than the branding element of banner creative (and, therefore, impression cookies).


In working with PI/PV cookies, the IAB is setting some much-needed hierarchy rules involving click and impression cookies and standardizing overwriting procedure across the networks. As banner impressions are a more passive, brand-focused area of online marketing, the IAB hopes to provide clarity about whether the cookie length should be different, depending on the type of cookie. BR is becoming more prevalent and BR companies are looking to run activity on a CPA basis via affiliate networks. The code of conduct has been devised, which all BR companies must adhere to when running activity via member networks of the AMC. It's a positive step for both the advertising networks and affiliate marketers.


The AMC has taken the decision to make some elements compulsory with others subject to individual advertiser/merchant choice. Where this choice is available to advertisers/merchants, the network will be able to advise on the range of options available. The code of conduct applies to all affiliates/publishers who engage in behavioral retargeting via affiliate networks including Affiliate Future, Affiliate Window, Affilinet,, Commission Junction, Linkshare, OMG, TradeDoubler & Webgains.


These aforementioned networks are able to work with BR affiliates and publishers in a "controlled way" if they are deemed to offer additional value (at the discretion of the network). Advertiser and merchants are encouraged to highlight programs where PI/PV is in place. Perhaps most important in the compulsory code of conduct is that PI/PV cookies should never overwrite a click cookie.


The IAB's AMC has proposed the following hierarchy which should be adhered to by all networks:


Where a single Post Click affiliate cookie exists in isolation, the Post Click cookie is attributed to the click referrer; whereas when multiple Post Click affiliate cookies exist, the most recent Post Click cookie is attributed to the last click referrer.


Where a single PI/PV cookie exists in isolation, the PI/PV cookie is attributed with the PI/PV referrer. Where multiple PI/PV cookies exist, the most recent PI/PV cookie is attributed with the last PI/PV referrer. Should PI/PV cookies and Post Click cookies coexist, the most recent Post Click cookie is attributed with the last click referrer.


This code of conduct is desperately needed and it positions behavioral targeting as a tactic very well in order to continue its growth in both the advertising and affiliate communities.