*DMA Preps Exhibitors for '60 Minutes' Taping on Privacy

TORONTO-Rumors that CBS' “60 Minutes” would be onhand to tape a segment on privacy filled the convention center as the Direct Marketing Association's fall conference got under way here over the weekend.

The DMA even went so far as to fax a “talking points” statement to its exhibitors late last week detailing what to say if interviewed by “60 Minutes.” DMA officials said attendees should expect a news crew, including cameras, in preparation for a story related to online information collection by marketers and related privacy concerns.

“As you may know, privacy and cyberspace are of increasing interest to the media, government officials and the general public. Please keep in mind the sensitivity of these issues when discussing your product and services with any representatives of the media,” the statement read. “Remember, it is important to have an established protocol for your exhibit booth staff for dealing with media inquiries. For example, you may want to refer inquiries to your public relations department and/or designate a spokesperson on-site to handle all such media requests.”

While it's not unusual for members of the mainstream media to cover the fall conferences, it is uncommon for the DMA to issue a fax coaching its exhibitors on what to say if they are interviewed. Among its suggestions:

*The freedom to use public information and consumer information comes with responsibility. Marketers must be sensitive about how they use this information and adhere to the DMA's Privacy Promise.

*Marketing lists contain names and addresses and other contact information of consumers (or businesspersons) based on common characteristics.

*Consumers receive many offers they may not have asked for, but are nonetheless relevant to them, precisely because of the availability of commercial information for targeted offers.

*Consumers benefit when marketers rent and exchange lists because they receive helpful direct marketing offers as a result.

*Consumers have choice in this process. Every responsible direct marketer maintains a service for customers who do not want their names and addresses shared with other marketers.

*Interactive marketers recognize that online privacy protection and assurances bolster consumer confidence in the Internet marketplace.

*Consumer confidence is crucial to the future of direct marketing online (and offline). As marketers offline have known for years, the future success and growth of direct marketing is directly linked to customer confidence.

*Consumers must have confidence that the information they provide online marketers, such as contact and credit information, is secure. Without it, the growth of online commerce will not reach its maximum potential. Consumers will turn elsewhere.

*Self-regulation by online marketers is working.

Regarding that final point, the DMA's “talking points” fax mentioned results from this spring's Georgetown University study showing that the majority of Web sites post privacy and information use policies and that nearly 95 percent of U.S. Web traffic is on sites that offer either a privacy policy or an information practices statement online.

“The industry supports legislative protection in special, targeted cases, such as children, that are not overly restrictive,” the statement read. “This type of regulation should address issues only where there is a strong likelihood of consumer harm.”

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