Canadian Marketing Association Develops Guidelines on List and Data Usage

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TORONTO - In response to rising consumer concerns about privacy on the Internet, the Canadian Marketing Association has formulated a comprehensive set of guidelines governing list and data usage.

"Data is one of the most valuable assets of any organization," said John Gustavson, CMA president/CEO. "It is important that marketers have guidelines that help protect and preserve the value and integrity of their lists and data, while at the same time protecting the privacy of their customers."

Developed by the CMA's database and list council, the Guidelines for Data Transfer and List Practices are intended to:

• Maintain and enhance public confidence in the Canadian information-based marketing industry.

• Encourage best practices within the industry.

• Promote compliance with the association's mandatory Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

• Extend the association's self-regulation to the database and list segment of the industry.

Bob Coles, senior vice president of the Cornerstone Group of Companies and head of the council group charged with creating the guidelines, said, "Our expectation is that these standards will help list owners and users build and maintain positive relationships with their clients, prospects and business partners."

Among other things, the guidelines highlight a number of warning signs that a company may be intending to use a rented list fraudulently. These include an unusually large initial order, an order received without prior communication and an order not preceded by a market test.

In addition, the guidelines provide common-sense suggestions to help ensure that communications going out to end recipients meet high standards.

"If the offer is unclear to you, it may be equally unclear to the recipient. If you have read the copy twice, and you still don't clearly understand what is being offered, insist on clarification of the copy," Coles said. "The mere act of requesting additional information may deter some unscrupulous advertisers."

The guidelines also encourage those renting out lists to pay close attention to the credibility of the offer. "Put yourself in the place of the recipient. Are the copy claims outlandish or are they too strong to be believed?"

The manner in which the offer is presented is also flagged as a potential trouble area. The guidelines say companies renting out lists should carefully vet advertising copy to ensure it is in good taste.

Even the simple act of demanding that advertisers provide their actual street addresses can help deter fraud. List-rental companies are encouraged not to do business with advertisers that provide only post office box numbers as their addresses.

The guidelines were released earlier this year at the Canadian Marketing Association's annual Database and List Conference in Toronto.

The CMA's 790 members are responsible for more than $13.5 billion in annual sales through information-based marketing channels. Members include Canada's major financial institutions, insurance companies, publishers, retailers, charitable organizations, relationship marketers and those involved in e-business and Internet marketing.

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