Cantonrep.com September 29, 2005 You're ready to pay. But, first, the cashier has a question: "Did you find everything you were looking for?" Or maybe it's "Do you have our advantage card?" Hey, even "Paper or plastic?" is pushing the envelope these days. Getting the third degree in the checkout line can be a pain. But there are two questions that really drive consumers out the marketplace door. Especially now as privacy concerns loom larger than ever before.
The Chapell View This is a nice illustration of what's wrong with many data collection programs. Sometimes, it's less about WHAT you're asking for, and more about the WAY you ask. Case in point - when I go to a retail chain here in NYC (particularly stores outside the friendly confines of the west village) I am rarely greeted with anything other than a scowl by the checkout person. So when the first words out of their mouth to me are "gimme your zipcode", or something similar, I'm much less inclined to provide my information. In fact, rather than fight with them, it's just easier to provide incorrect info.
Conversely, when I am warmly greeted by a cashier, who engages me in some way, then I am much less taken aback if/when (s)he asks for my info.
But such is life in the retail world, I suppose. As often as not, low margins... shoddy service.
ThinkMetrics' Brandt Dainow reports on how members of the techie community are working hard to subvert your online metrics -- and why. If you work in web marketing there are some people who hate you. They hate you with a passion that's bordering on the fanatical, especially if you're involved in web metrics. The reason they hate you is that you count unique visitors. They also hate you for presenting ads online. These people will do everything they can to avoid being counted. Some of them will also try to make your count of other people inaccurate. These people are your techies. They are your web site administrators, your UNIX gurus, your online programmers, your IT support staff. If you sell or market IT products, or analyze that audience, you've got a fight on your hands.
The Chapell View Brandt Dainow writes an interesting piece. I recognize that there are people out there that philosophically don't like being profiled. Some of them don't want any organization to ever have any data on them at all. Some are even ideologically opposed to the concept of Advertising. I think that's fine - different strokes and all.
There are some people who are NEVER going to embrace what marketers do. And that's ok. I'm not going to spend a heck of alot of time thinking about them. Most of these people are wicked smart, and are ten steps ahead of every marketer that attempts to obtain and use their information.
Having said that, I think we can all learn something from this mindset. Here's a quote from Brandt's article, which I'm pretty sure was quoting the Slashdot forum:
"If you want us to view your ads, make your content worth our time, and more importantly, make your ads worth viewing, unobtrusive, and not an annoying flashing noisy mess."
Hard to argue with that - while I realize that it's much harder to deliver a relevant ad unless you know something about the audience. Nevertheless, we as marketers tend to err on the side of intrusiveness over engagement - annoyance over entertaining. That needs to end.
Another thing - these comments are strikingly similar to those I've seen from teen and tween research. The kids know what they want, and they know where to find it. And most importantly, they tend (even more so than the techies) to view all ads as annoying. Maybe they grow out of these notions in the same way that I no longer see Duran Duran as being particularly cool.
But perhaps the techie community is the canary in a coal mine for what's coming ten years down the road...
Of course, by then everyone will be working for Google. (:
Times Dispatch September 18, 2005 Reader Robert Regnier of Richmond refinanced his home in February. Immediately, he was inundated with at least a dozen offers for better mortgage rates and inquiries about selling his property. Puzzled, he began calling around and soon traced the release of his mortgage information to the Henrico Circuit Court Clerk's Office. What bothered him was the magnitude of personal information that anybody, including identity thieves, could see and use to solicit, steal, sell or legitimately use just by walking into the clerk's office or -- for several Virginia counties -- simply sitting at home reading them on the Internet.
The Chapell View Every so often I see another spate of press stories describing the data that the Government makes available to just about anyone who wants it. Of course, the problem is that, for the most part, the only people who seem to want this data are the evil doers of the world and the data brokers.
As an aside, some might argue that there's little distinction between "evil doer" and "data broker." I prefer to view the latter as the poster children for another unregulated industry that is screaming for the Government to step in. And while they may have inadvertently been given a stay of execution as a result of the tragedies in the Gulf Coast, the Supreme Court nominations, and the great Spyware/Adware/Cookie debate, my advice to them is that the direct marketing industry would be much better of if they embraced change on this issue. OK, enough with the lecture. (But damn, if I hear another old school direct marketer tell me that the problem isn't with them, it's with everyone else...oiy!)
What makes this story a bit more interesting is that it falls nearly in the wake of the data breach scandals of the past year, and the response of several State Governments led by California to require businesses to disclose their data breaches. There's also some discussion at the state and Federal level about setting up rules around data breach, and regulating the transfer of data.
Of course, the trouble with choking off data flow is that it tends to be contrary to the concept of a free society. And since none of us seem to want to live under an EU privacy regime, then what's a privacy conscious American to do?
Perhaps the answer lay in limiting the flow of information to those who really need it. Of course that assumes that one could determine who really needs it. The minute I started my company I started getting all kinds of offers for credit cards, insurance, office supplies, Etc. I even got an offer for 100 American Flag pens with the Chapell Associates name and address on it. The things look hideous. I was thinking about giving them out at the next IAPP conference so we can find out whether or not pens given out in Vegas really stay in Vegas.
But even if we were able to figure out who really needed that information, how would we go about authenticating these people? Is the Roanoke County Clerk going to have the bandwidth to make such a determination?
TechNewsWorld September 13, 2005 Anti-spyware and other security software makers are saying the butler did it, claiming search player is installing software on users' machines without properly notifying them or confirming their consent. The issue has caused questions about whether the software and features Ask Jeeves is delivering its users is adware, spyware or otherware, but analysts agreed the improper notification about the software -- reportedly hidden deep in a user agreement document -- is bad policy at best, highlighting the need for more user awareness and an upfront approach from companies that may be cluttering PCs for their own advertising profits through partners and third parties.
The Chapell View If memory serves me, Sunbelt had recently issued a report on WhenU's practices as well. A few people had asked me if WhenU had paid Sunbelt to conduct the evaluation and subsequent report. This might make sense, given that the company had enlisted noted privacy expert (and good friend) Richard Purcell to perform an evaluation of their practices roughly a year ago.
However, the more I think about it, the stronger I believe that Sunbelt is bearing the cost of these evaluations. For one thing, its GREAT PR to be able to launch a new evaluation once every couple of months. This issue remains red hot, and so you don't have to look very hard to find a newspaper or other publication that is wiling to print a headline that says "LARGE MEDIA COMPANY IS DISTRIBUTING SPYWARE."
I may not agree with everything they say, but some of these anti-spyware companies are doing a great job of broadcasting their message - broadcasting it to the media, to consumers, to advocacy groups, and to legislators. I may not agree with that message, but I absolutely must tip me cap to them for their ability to take it to the streets - and to the proverbial hole. They are building up a considerable reservoir of credibility on the Spyware issue. And if/when the online space is able to come up with an agreed upon set of best practices for Adware, then the Anti-Spyware guys will just move the debate over to third party cookies. In fact, they've already done that to some extent.
And btw, we're almost into Q4, and I'm still waiting for the online media types to fashion a reasonable response to the cookie debate. I know that SafeCount is taking steps in that direction, but these things take time, and the bleeding is happening now. And meanwhile, seems like almost every week I find out about another use of semi-anonymous data, or the combination of PII and anonymous data that makes me cringe. This isn't going to go away on its own, folks.
iMedia Connection - September 15, 2005 A Chapell Article Rarely does the first solution to a problem actually succeed...This seems equally true in the marketing biz: when a new technology or advertising program is rolled out, we can't be sure that it will appeal to its target audience or solve the problems at hand. We've really just got to watch and wait. In reviewing the click fraud controversy, I think we can see why CPA isn't a panacea for the industry...(more).
MediaPost - September 9, 2005 Amid the hubbub about cookies and their uses over the summer, one element of the debate seems to have been lost in the mix. Ironically, it is among the more prevalent uses of cookies, and also among the more potentially dangerous uses for publishers. I'm talking about the instantaneous data harvesting that occurs routinely in the online ad buying/delivery process. Here are two types that have made a few companies and individuals extremely wealthy, while remaining predominantly under the radar of this debate...
The Chapell View Mark Naples raises some important issues here. Many of us may not want to admit it, but we in the online space adopted many of the age old direct marketing practices - both good and bad. One of the cultural leftovers from our direct marketing past is the concept of "never letting consumers see you make the sausage." I've heard this mantra repeated by more than one "old-school" direct marketers since 1999. The idea is that consumers what consumers don't know won't hurt them, and that transparency could only increase consumer fear and distrust. And while that MIGHT have been true in 1975 (when all we had to worry about was getting an extra copy of someone's catalog) it certainly is NOT true today. There's just too much data out there, and too many marketers vying for consumer attention.
Our industry increasingly recognizes the importance of obtaining some basic level of consumer buy-in regarding cookies. If our industry is going to be in the business of educating the consumer, we need to go all the way. In other words, if we're going to take our message to consumers, if we want to argue transparency, then we can't leave out pesky little details simply because we're afraid that these details might freak people out.
For example, if we're going to provide third parties with access to profiling data, then we need to say so. Similarly, we must acknowledge that web site privacy statements do not neccessarily reflect the privacy practices of those who advertise on the web site.
There are several groups - even a few within the online media/marketing/research world, who continue to take shots at online ad measurement and enhancement technologies. We can't begin to defend our practices if those practices are not transparent.