*'60 Minutes' Descends on DMA's Fall Show

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TORONTO--Officials from CBS' top-rated "60 Minutes" sized up the Direct Marketing Association's fall conference here yesterday in preparation to tape a segment on the gathering of online information and consumer privacy concerns.


Producer Rome Hartman and associate producer Elizabeth Weinreb walked through the exhibit floor and met with DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen and other officials. Hartman would only say that they are working on a story about how Internet marketers gather and store information on consumers.


"We don't like to be the news, we like to make the news," he said.


The "60 Minutes" crew will be taping interviews with exhibiting companies on the floor today, but none of the show's anchors will be around. What is being filmed here will be just a small part of the news magazine's overall story, said Hartman, who did not say when the segment will air.


After meeting with Hartman and Weinreb, Wientzen said he expects a balanced presentation of the facts.


" '60 Minutes' is trying to present, I'm hopeful, a balanced story," he said. "I'm hopeful they also will cover how important this information is to the American economy and how important the information business is to the American economy."


Acxiom Corp., Conway, AR, was one of several exhibitors contacted by "60 Minutes" before the conference, according to spokesman Dale Ingram. Representatives from the show were seeking information on Acxiom's role in the industry. While the company hasn't yet agreed to an interview request, he said Acxiom sent a letter outlining what it does and how its services are used in direct marketing.


Michael Hail, CEO of KnowledgeBase Marketing, Houston, had a pre-interview with "60 Minutes" and is expected to be interviewed on camera today. The recent changes to the Driver Privacy Protection Act will have a devastating effect on the DM industry, said Hail, who expects Vice President Al Gore to use privacy as a key campaign point in the presidential election.


Peter Evans, vice president of marketing at e-mail services vendor Mediasynergy, Toronto, said he would welcome the "60 Minutes" crew at his booth.


"We would talk to them about our TRUSTe certification," Evans said, referring to the online privacy seal the company recently was awarded.


Mass saturation mailings will probably be the result of any legislation, Hail said, and the DMA and marketers need to launch a grass-roots marketing campaign to consumers to help demystify what they do with the information they gather on consumers. However, the DMA is at least six months away before something like this happens, Wientzen said.


"It's a big effort," he said. "We have to raise significant amounts of money before we can do that."


Senior editors Melissa Campanelli, Mark Hamstra and Grant Lukenbill contributed to this report.
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