Consider your daily life:  Ads for what you like.  Free nights from favorite hotels.  Offers that help you get what you need.   Customized digital coupons.  Website services that match your lifestyle.

All of these experiences are so commonplace that we hardly think about how they arrive and serve us.  They are all driven by marketing data –like  information you choose to provide personally (through online forms) or which can be inferred (the sites you visit, items you buy through a loyalty program, and things you talk about on social networks).

Given our data-driven lifestyles, it’s important to understand the purpose behind marketing data and to know what marketing data looks like.   All businesses use marketing data for a variety of legitimate purposes.  Marketers will use your data for marketing purposes – but never for financial or health eligibility.  They will use marketing data to create predictions based on aggregated trends, confirm correct usage of your address or phone numbers when sending promotional material, and/or suggest what products you might like based on your past purchases and website visits.  And since ads pay for the free Internet services we love to use, relevant advertising means you are going to get ads for things you like.

The truth is, you hold more power than you think over the information you provide to marketers and how marketers can use it.  There are four primary ways to get involved:

1.  Choose Your Experiences

Marketers only want to show you offers that appeal to you.  Give them feedback to ensure that you are fully connected with the brands you love.

  • Visit, an online tool developed by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) to help you manage your mail preferences. You can opt-out of certain mailing lists or change your choices.  Note too that most businesses also have internal Do Not Call registries and email-unsubscribe services.
  • Look for the Advertising Options icon on ad banners and click for more info (there are trillions of them every month on many websites).    If you opt out, you will still see advertising, you just won’t see relevant advertising.   Most people decide to stay opted in once they learn how relevant advertising helps them.
  • If you prefer, sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry to remove yourself from marketing call lists.  If you are a customer of any company, you can also always ask to be on their internal Do Not Mail/Call list.   Look for a toll free phone number or a “preferences” link on the bottom of web pages or email messages.
  • Unsubscribe from unwanted email messages.  The best way to reduce clutter in your inbox is to unsubscribe from unwanted messages directly with the sender (look for the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of any commercial message).  Another great way to manage your inbox is to filter messages into separate folders. This way, you can find what you need when are you looking for it—and you never miss a great offer.

2.  Get Informed.

Know what marketing information is held on you and customize it so that you are getting more of what you want.  Visit:

3.   Be Responsible.

Always look for the privacy policy before you fill in a form online or ask for information from a company. Know what data will be used and for what purpose BEFORE you provide it.   Protect your computer by setting up a firewall and use virus scanners and malware blockers.  Reputable sites will use security measures to keep your form data safe, but if your computer is infected with malicious tracking software from hackers and wrong-doers, your data may still be vulnerable.  Keep an eye on your children’s online activities.  Make sure to protect your mobile devices too.

4. Help DMA help you. 

Marketers must be held to high standards—if you think you have experienced or witnessed bad marketing practices in action, report them to DMA and we will follow up.  Visit to opt out and/or file a complaint.  You can always also contact the FTC or the Better Business Bureau.  Most companies want to hear from customers, so contact their customer service desk with specific feedback.

Marketing data is powerful.   It helps connect you with deals, products, services and brands you like.  Be knowledgeable, safe and purposeful as you discover the benefits of marketing services in your data-driven life.

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