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Balancing the Value of Data-Driven Marketing and the Potential Harm from Lack of Consumer Transparency


Post Date: December 4, 2013
By: Susan Taplinger

Often referred to as “Dr. Data”, Don Hinman is an expert in the creation and use of external data in marketing database applications– and as SVP of  Data Strategy at Epsilon, he leads the data asset utilization functions for the company’s data products. In the snippet below, he talks to us about the effective and efficient use of data and why transparency is paramount. Don is a past Chair of the DMA’s Committee on Ethical Business Practices and serves on the Marketing EDGE Board of Trustees. He also blogs at www.abrandnewview.com.

There is an on-going debate between the Data Driven Market (DDM) and the regulatory forces in Washington. It centers on the balance of the use of data in our Data Driven Marketing Economy and the need for consumer transparency in how data is used.

Both positions are important. In the recent “Value of Data” study from the DMA Data-Driven Marketing Institute, it was demonstrated that in 2012 alone the data-driven marketing economy generated $156 billion to the U.S economy and 675,000 jobs. This is a powerful contributor to economic growth.

However, Congress and the FTC are exploring how marketing data is collected and used. Their intention is to protect consumers from possible misuse of information and to ensure they are better informed about how data is utilized.

We share that goal at Epsilon.  We believe consumers should have transparency in what data is collected.  We believe that consumers should have a choice in how their data is used.  However, the approach that government may take could be broader than what may be necessary to achieve the goals of consumer transparency.

This is where the balance is needed. Our economy—as well as our jobs—is dependent upon the effective and efficient use of data. Our business is also dependent upon our clients reaching their consumers with meaningful offers and services through the appropriate use of data.

Consumers expect that their privacy will be protected. They also expect that the level of services provided to them by our clients is appropriate and useful to them.  It takes marketing data to do this well. Therefore, both the needs of the business and the needs of consumers must be balanced.

We will hear a great deal more discussion on this in the next year. The Senate Commerce Committee continues to seek information that may lead to legislation in this area. The FTC will be issuing a report on how “data brokers” should use data.

Our goal as members of the data-driven marketing economy will be to help inform consumers, clients and regulators about both the value of marketing data and appropriate consumer transparency of what we do.

If we can achieve the appropriate balance, it will be good for our business, for the economy and for consumers.

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