Agencies educate clients on privacy

As the online consumer privacy debate takes shape on Capitol Hill, direct marketing agencies are educating their clients on how to actively engage consumers though mobile and social media but stay within legal and ethical bounds.?

“In terms of how we think about privacy, it’s a big topic. It’s in the top three topics of interactive marketing, the others being social and mobile,” said Paul Gunning, global CEO of Tribal DDB Worldwide. “There are benefits to data collection; we know it creates a better experience, and we know that it creates an environment for better advertising. We also know that there is a line and that there are abuses that can take place that can erode the public trust.” ?

Privacy issues have moved to the forefront as Congress considers a number of consumer data tracking regulatory bills that were introduced this session. Consumers have also been shaken by various high-profile data breaches at companies such as Citigroup and Epsilon.?

Agencies are playing the role of counselor, clarifying what types of data collection or digital interaction are considered acceptable and warning clients when campaign concepts risk going too far. Gunning explains the agency role as “defining the line to our clients, and keeping them two steps behind it.” ?

“Clients don’t come into this blindly; they know when they are doing something a little bit different. Mobile location is the thing that we have the most conversations about right now,” he said. “We explain how mobile works and how consumers become connected to a brand with location being the catalyst. It’s rarely a legal question, but more about whether the customer ?experience is going to be a good one.”?

Grace Liau, SVP at VivaKi, noted that the ramifications of a possible privacy misstep have forced agencies to give legal advice more than in the past. Shops are also educating themselves on privacy best practices, she said. ?

“We are keeping up with what is going on, and we are educating our clients on it. We’re going to their sites and hearing their concerns directly from them,” she said. “Our legal people are very versed in these issues. We do have to bring in outside counsel type of help on some very specific topics, and now our time is focused more on that.”?

It’s also paramount for agencies to ensure their employees are using privacy best practices themselves as they educate their clients about them, noted Bradley Rogers, commercial director at He added that the agency’s goal is to educate its workforce to the point that all employees are experts on the issue. ?

“We want to educate our clients on the ramifications and what their responsibilities are,” he said. “But we also want to educate our own senior leadership so people understand the debate. As much as we have a responsibility to the marketers, we also have a responsibility to be compliant with what we are promoting.”

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