Welcome back to the DMA Advance blog series, The Plain Facts. This Q&A-style series of brief posts aims to highlight the value of data-driven marketing to consumers and brands. If you have an idea for a question, or would like to be featured, please contact the editor.

This week, we address the issue of privacy and the use of marketing data.

Question:  American citizens were shocked to learn that the National Security Agency (NSA) was secretly collecting huge amounts of personal data about them. Aren’t marketers doing the same thing?

Answer:  There is absolutely no connection between government spying and  responsible use of marketing data.  As revelations regarding NSA practices have come to light in recent months, DMA has been working hard to make it clear to policymakers and the media that  data-driven marketing is not only welcome and of value to consumers, it is what powers our beloved digital lifestyles.

Marketers use  public consumer information and demographics to enhance the shopping experience and nurture customer loyalty.  They are not interested in covert activities such tracking your emails or phone calls.  And data-driven marketers are already held to a comprehensive set of legal and self-imposed regulations that protect consumers.  DMA enforces Ethical Business Guidelines for the industry, centered around notice, choice and transparency.

In fact, to be cost-effective, a marketer’s focus must be on a customer’s past buying behavior and opt-in preferences, or general public demographics. That is the information that marketers can best use to offer more personalized shopping experiences for customers with different preferences – to grab their interest and win their loyalty.

Marketers serve their customers by focusing on information made available to them. For example:

  A website visitor may enter her email address to receive updates from a home goods site about “preferred customer” sales or the latest product innovations.

  A merchant may aggregate general census information on young families living in Florida, to send them discount coupons for backyard play equipment.

And, if a consumer wants to opt out of behavior advertising, they can exercise that choice by using the “advertising option icon,” where one can opt out of virtually all behaviorally targeted ads.

DMA holds its member companies to highstandards of protecting consumer data from abuse or misuse. It is in the consumers’ – and the merchants’ — best interest to do so. The best consumer/marketer relationships are built – and thrive  on trust.

DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice set the standard for how marketers can enhance the individual shopping experience while respecting consumer privacy. You can learn more about DMA’s ethical standards at thedma.org/compliance.


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