Tom Benton 318x318 v2Your responsible use of data for marketing in the U.S. is at risk. Have you spoken with your fellow marketers in the EU about the limitations on their ability to use data?

There is one thing that stands between you and the regulation of your data and marketing practices into a far stricter landscape like that in Europe and elsewhere: DMA’s advocacy and self-regulatory programs for the marketing industry, that preserve and protect your ability to capture, use and refine data for marketing. If industry self-regulation is pushed aside for government regulation of marketing, your entire business model would change overnight and your marketing practices – and growth and ROI – would be significantly curtailed.

While marketing creative wins hearts and minds and analytics helps brands target the right offers at the right time to the right customers, self-regulation stands as the front line of defense for marketing. It is not sexy or glamorous and you’re not likely to see it as a keynote topic at the next industry conference you attend. In fact, you almost wouldn’t know that it’s there, in place and working on your behalf to ensure that self-regulation is always the better choice over government regulation of marketing.

For over 60 years, DMA has crafted and enforced strong industry self-regulation in partnership with our members. Self-regulation ensures that DMA members – whether they are marketers or the business partners that support them – can responsibly capture, process and refine detailed data to innovate marketing practices and technologies that benefit their customers and grow our economy. DMA’s self-regulation also ensures that consumers’ preferences are respected and their interests protected when industry members are not in compliance with DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice.

And to give you an idea of the scope of DMA’s self-regulatory program, DMA processed over 45,000 consumer complaints, assisting and educating consumers, informing marketers about DMA requirements, and pursuing bad actors within our industry over the last five years alone.

Today, I am pleased to share with you the just-published 2016 DMA Annual Ethics Compliance Report. Covering DMA’s self-regulatory program for 2015, the report is a comprehensive overview of DMA’s compliance and casework program including the types and quantity of consumer inquiries and complaints investigated by Accountability Department staff and DMA’s Ethics Operating Committee and our efforts to bring companies into compliance with the DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice.

While the full 2016 Report is available for download, I want to point out a few highlights:

  • DMA received 11,300 consumer and company inquiries during this reporting period.
  • Of the 11,300 inquiries received, 90% were resolved in the initial stages. Thirty-seven cases were referred to the DMA Ethics Operating Committee; six cases are still in non-compliance.
  • Consumers’ number one concern remains ensuring their ad choices and marketing preferences are honored by companies marketing to them and organizations seeking donations regardless of the marketing channel.
  • There is an increase in consumer reporting on the relevancy of the marketing offer in the digital ads they are viewing on their desktops (81% this reporting period vs 75% in 2013-2014). In addition, mobile-viewed complaints increased slightly (8% this reporting period v. 6% in the 2013-2014 reporting period).

Recognizing the pace of industry innovation in technologies and techniques, DMA is already at work leading a major initiative to update our data guidelines within DMA’s self-regulatory principles. This latest update of DMA’s data standards – the DMA Data Standards 2.0 Initiative – will reflect current innovations in the marketplace in terms of technological advancements and uses of data that balance consumer needs and protections. In a comprehensive fashion, Data Standards 2.0 will tackle new high profile and emergent data issues, such as “on-boarding” of offline data online; use of television viewing data; information service provider transparency; and more. Oracle, Facebook, Google, IBM, American Express, Visa, Warner Bros., Acxiom, Epsilon, Experian, Nielson, L brands, Hearst, PCH, TimeWarner and MediaMath are examples of those who are engaged in this important data and marketing initiative.

The work detailed in the 2016 Ethics Report would not be possible without the members of the DMA Ethics Operating Committee and the DMA Ethics Policy Committee, who contribute their time and expertise to shape and enforce these guidelines. The chairs and members of these committees are featured on pages 24-26 of the report, and they are to be congratulated for their dedicated efforts to sustain and advance self-regulation and compliance.

Tom Benton