Marketers Discover Privacy's Brand Appeal

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Direct marketing industry leaders met at the Privacy & American Business Conference in Arlington, VA, this week to compare notes and share opinions on the state of the corporate world's challenges on the privacy issue, with hopes of buttressing themselves against a groundswell of consumer complaints.

"The marrying of offline and online information about consumers and the connecting of that data to the delivery of their editorial content is going to be one of the hottest political issues debated in the 2000 election," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Media Education, Washington,

Industry leaders generally defended their interests, citing new reports on privacy released from IBM, Armonk, NY; Privacy & American Business, Hackensack, NJ, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in Washington - all of which noted key advances in self-regulation, as well as consumers' willingness to share information voluntarily in exchange for services. But the fine print revealed points that consumer groups jumped on: profiling and access.

"As a marketer, my relationship with you can flourish if I'm upfront with you," said Jim Scott, president/CEO of Response Logic, New York, a personalized permission marketing firm. "That's why we take the approach that allows people to fill out a profile but also allows them to continually come back and fine-tune it. It simply makes sense. And more brand managers can build trust with consumers by letting them in on the information they are [tracking on consumers]. Repeat customers lead to loyalty. In a way, it's no different than it's ever been."

Ehren Maedge, co-founder/CEO of new permission marketing company Aureate Media, Indianapolis, agreed. And he paints the privacy issue as a no-brainer. "We're bringing advertisers and software development companies together in a symbiotic relationship that creates new revenue streams for developers, gives advertisers a way to precisely target their audience and provides consumers quality software for free."

"I think it's important to remember that consumers want to know about all this technology that is so sophisticated," Chester said. "It's about more than determining psychological interest based on consumer online behavior. The problem I have is that the default [offer to consumers] should be opt-in, not opt-out. It's how marketers are going to really be creating new branding and marketing opportunities for themselves."

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