NEW YORK — Though the traditional direct marketing vs. e-mail marketing debate continued here this month at the Direct Marketing Association’s List Vision 2000 conference, privacy issues found their way to the forefront of the proceedings.
“We are at the infancy of the privacy debate,” said Jay Schwedelson, corporate vice president at Worldata/WebConnect, Boca Raton, FL, in the opening general-session panel discussion called, Shaping the Future of the List Industry.
Schwedelson also said that privacy parameters placed on e-mail marketing are constantly changing, making it necessary for marketers to pay close attention.
Fellow panelist Donn Rappaport, chairman at American List Counsel, Princeton, NJ, agreed and added that, “One piece of unfortunate [privacy] legislation could derail e-mail marketing.”
As a precaution, Ben Isaacson, executive director at the Association for Interactive Media, New York, advised the panel’s audience to have clear-cut privacy policies and descriptions of their companies available in case their privacy practices are questioned.
In his luncheon address, H. Robert Wientzen, president/CEO of the DMA, New York, continued the privacy discussion by encouraging list professionals to continue their push into online marketing. But he also urged them to be proactive and to be aware regarding privacy issues.
If list professionals do not regulate themselves, he said, the government will, and will do it badly.
“Government reacts to worst-case scenarios,” said Jules Polonetsky, chief privacy officer at DoubleClick, New York, in a session devoted to privacy.
Consumers are generally unconcerned about privacy, said Polonetsky. They are concerned about security issues such as identity theft. Many consumers mistakenly use the terms “privacy” and “security” interchangeably, he added.
According to Polonetsky, it is the challenge of business to educate consumers about privacy issues and to win their confidence. Most consumers don’t realize that online advertising helps to keep the Web free, he said.
The media coverage is not going away, said Polonetsky. It is important for marketers to encourage consumers to look through the hype at what is really going on.