***DMA Announces Ad Blitz to Confront Privacy Problems

NEW ORLEANS — The Direct Marketing Association is initiating a major privacy consumer education campaign, President/CEO H. Robert Wientzen told a packed crowd yesterday at the DMA's 83rd Annual Conference and Exhibition here.

The campaign, which will stretch out over a three-year period, will consist of advertisements, opinion pieces, Web ads, and articles in newspapers and magazines. The effort will enable the DMA to set the record straight on privacy, change consumers' mind-sets about privacy, and let them know how marketers use information and how consumers will benefit, Wientzen said.

“A professionally developed and adequately funded campaign can deal with the misinformation and the public's anxiety,” Wientzen said. “It has been done before — for the plastics industry and for milk and pork, to name just a few.”

The campaign is being driven by the DMA and by companies in the Privacy Leadership Initiative. Wientzen said the effort would cost “many millions” of dollars, though he was not more specific.

The PLI is made up of 19 corporations and 10 trade associations and was formed to address consumer privacy concerns.

Besides privacy, the most important public policy issue on the horizon is the collection of remote sales tax — including taxes on catalogs and on Internet transactions, Wientzen said.

“It's getting ugly out there, folks,” he said. “The stakes are high and they are getting higher. As more at-distance sales are made [on the Web], politicians are getting an earful from local authorities, from the governors, and from Main Street merchants who are panicked at the prospect of losing more sales to the Web and catalogs.”

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