EDITORIAL: CPO? Not Enough Guilt

Forget about appointing a chief privacy officer. It’s time to create a job title that truly reflects today’s business climate: vice president of self-flagellation. Similarly to the medieval European-rooted religious sect of zealots who whip themselves, the Internet marketing flagellant would operate under the presumption that his company by definition is guilty of marketing sin demanding retribution.

Press releases announcing the appointments could read as follows:

“NeedDataToSell.com is pleased to announce it has appointed Robert Snivel to the newly created position of vice president of self-flagellation. Mr. Snivel is a perfect fit for NeedDataToSell.com. He brings to the position a long history of feeling professionally guilty over nothing and, as a result, will make a great addition to the team.

“About his new position Mr. Snivel commented, ‘In NeedDataToSell.com I see a company that’s ready to reach profitability. Clearly, it is engaged in marketing activities that were once considered responsible, but now draw media backlash and government scrutiny over hypothetical scenarios that have yet to happen. I look forward to many opportunities to whip myself senseless as NeedDataToSell.com does the politically incorrect things necessary to market profitably.’ “

On the organizational chart, the vice president of self-flagellation could be parallel to the vice president of marketing so both could report to the CEO. After all, we wouldn’t want any of those pesky marketing department demands to interfere with the vice president of self-flagellation’s ability to paint an accurate picture to the CEO.

“You’re looking kind of pale, Bob. Is the press after us again?”

“Actually, Susan, no. I lost a lot of blood during my meeting with the Federal Trade Commission yesterday lashing myself over our attempt to use offline data to help our online advertising reach people who actually might want to buy something. Those meetings can be rough, you know.”

“Yes, they can, Bob. But hopefully that’s the end of it. At least for a little while.”

“Actually, it’s not, Susan. Tomorrow, I fly to New York to hit myself with a hammer in state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office over our attempt to rent that database of online mitten buyers for our winter coat promotion. Wednesday, I’m off to Michigan to meet with state Attorney General Jennifer Granholm over our attempt to sell last year’s database of Furby buyers. Those Furby people are a sensitive bunch, you know. But if I break a couple of cinder blocks on my head, we’ll be in the clear with Granholm.”

“You know, Bob, you’ve been working awfully hard lately. And with us about to launch a new customer acquisition campaign that actually relies on sound database marketing principles, you’re going to be groveling to attorneys general all over the country, not to mention the baseless class action suits you’ll be publicly mutilating yourself over. What do you say we hire an assistant flagellant? You know, someone who can, say, occasionally whack herself in the head over our direct mail efforts.”

“Susan, I think that’s a fantastic idea. And we’d be a great opportunity for any aspiring flagellant. Once NeedDataToSell.com attains profitability, I’m going to have to start shooting my fingers off one by one. And I just read a study saying that flagellation officer is the fastest-growing executive position. It said there’s going to be more than 100,000 of them in this country alone within the next three years.”

“Consider yourself a supervisor of one, Bob. Though it’s sure going to be hard to find someone who can wallow in guilt for us the way you do. Have a safe trip tomorrow and give my best to Mr. Spitzer.”

Sometimes the only answer to hysteria is silliness.

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