We’re All Links in the Chain of Customer Trust

Where does the responsibility lie for customers’ privacy in terms of data used for marketing?

Over the past two years the business and news media have helped spread greater awareness of the data-driven marketing industry. Often this helps to educate and highlight the positive and growing role that our industry plays in improving advertising effectiveness. In other cases it heightens concerns among consumers and privacy groups about the public policy implications of using consumer data for marketing purposes. Some of these voices are creating even more media attention and consumer concern. So it should be apparent to anyone involved in the value chain of data-driven marketing that maintaining consumer trust and effective stewardship of information are crucial to the future of our industry. Lose this implied trust, and one of the fastest-growing industries in America will be slowed by innovation-killing regulation.

Therefore, the answer to this “tough question” is: Every organization that touches consumer data—data originators and aggregators, data compilers, agencies, resellers and brokers, third party processors, trading desks, DSPs, DMPs, and advertisers—every single entity in this chain of custody is directly responsible for creating and maintaining authentic security and consumer trust. This only works if all of us put a rigorous set of operating values at the core of our businesses. I mean philosophies that are so central to the beliefs of your company that they find their way into every corner of your operation, and every employee in your business.

At Experian Marketing Services, we operate under a formalized, core set of such values, called Global Information Values. Every day, thousands of my colleagues make decisions for the benefit of consumer trust using these values, which are the underpinning of a wide range of policies, processes, and decisions systems in our company. They are:

Balance: Balance the interests of consumers with the business needs of customers to ensure both receive benefit from information use.

Accuracy: Ensure the information we collect and maintain is as accurate and up to date as possible and that the information is appropriate for its intended use.

Security: Protect the information we maintain from unauthorized use or alteration.

Integrity: Comply with not only the letter, but also the spirit of all laws and applicable industry codes and self-regulations, and operate in accordance with these values.

Communication: Communicate openly about the information we maintain and how it’s used, and seek to inform consumers of their rights regarding its use.

Making these values live and breathe in your organization is what counts. It’s the expression of your values in the decisions you make. Specifically, decisions about where to source data, how to hold and process it, how to use it in targeting applications, who else in the supply chain you allow to touch it, and to whom you’ll sell it, whether as a pure audience or as part of a larger targeting or measurement solution.

This takes hard work, and there are no shortcuts. Every one of our Global Information Values, for example, brings a significant amount of processes, rules, and philosophies that underpin them. These must be designed to allow the business to innovate and execute at speed, without impeding growth. This too must be actively managed to achieve it.

One example of how we live and breathe our Global Information Values is in how we innovate. Every new product innovation and enhancement undergoes a peer review process called our Fair Information Values Assessment (FIVA). This brings together the five to 10 functional representatives who can ensure a product’s strict adherence to our Global Information Values. They represent roles in product management, technology, compliance, and data acquisition, among others. They convene quickly, follow a real-time evaluation and discussion process, and either approve the product or specify changes that must be addressed swiftly prior to launch. An explicit step in this FIVA process is to ensure that the consumers’ interests have been met, as it relates to the acquisition, management, and distribution of our data in the product under review.

There are many other examples, but the responsibility to maintain consumers’ privacy lies with every participant in our industry. Delivering on that responsibility requires you to imbed the right information values at the center of your company, so that everything else you do rests on those values. My challenge to you is to ask yourself if your company meets that standard. If it does not, then your company may be jeopardizing the reputation of all data-driven marketers. If your company meets the standard, then you’re securing the industry’s future, and you need to insist that your trading partners, suppliers, and customers are doing the same.


Rick Erwin, Experian Marketing Services

Rick Erwin is responsible for the strategic direction, growth, and profi tability of Experian Marketing Services’ targeting group. These businesses help B2C marketers understand their customers and prospects, and to defi ne their market opportunity for new customer acquisition, retention, and expansion. Experian’s extensive marketing data assets include syndicated brand and media consumption research, compiled household level demographics and lifestyle information, and online competitive intelligence tracking. Erwin resides in suburban Chicago and serves on the board of directors of the Chicago Youth Centers, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), and the John G. Shedd Aquarium. When he’s not working, Erwin prefers to be scuba diving in Mexico. “I’ve joked before about becoming a bluefin tuna rancher,” he says.

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