Commentary

It's Time To Make Your Voice Heard

“All politics is local.” It is one of the most famous quotations about the Washington, D.C., industry from former House Speaker, Tip O’Neill. It’s a lesson I personally learned in my first job working for a Congressman on Capitol Hill. With any issue that came up his first question was always, “what have we heard from the people back home?” He was constantly aware that he needed their approval every two years to keep his job. It makes a difference when constituents express their views. Better yet, when constituents make the effort to travel to Washington, D.C., and do it in person, it really gets noticed.

That is why the American Advertising Federation’s Day on the Hill (March 6-7) is so important. It is the advertising industry’s chance to travel to D.C. and express our views to make a difference on the issues that matter to us, to our businesses and our relationships with consumers.  

Privacy and data security are perhaps the biggest hot button issues of our time and with good reason. Data is what fuels the Internet, whether it is content, commerce or consumer and business-to-business advertising. The responsible use of data provides countless benefits for customers and advertisers alike. It can be a powerful igniter of insights, relationships and business. Consumers know there is a value proposition that exists with sharing data. They recognize they will receive relevant content, offers and information, in exchange for the responsible use of their data.

Unfortunately, there have been too many visible instances where this vital information has been used inappropriately. With each negative, and often shocking story, consumer trust erodes.  

The advertising industry agrees that consumers have a legitimate expectation that their data and the information collected about them be used responsibly. That’s why AAF and our industry partners created the Digital Advertising Alliance. This effective self-regulatory body gives consumers an important measure of control over how their data is used.

While we are proud that the industry has moved ahead on this issue, we recognize that new laws may also be needed.

Europe has passed the General Data Protection Regulation. California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act and many other states are considering action as well. These measures are well-intentioned – and AAF supports many of the goals they are trying to achieve. The reality though, is that it will be virtually impossible for advertisers and businesses to comply with multiple inconsistent standards. This will not only be bad for businesses, but also for consumers.

AAF believes it is time for Congress to look at creating a single national standard for privacy and data security – one that works for consumers, businesses and advertisers alike. We know that it won’t be easy or happen quickly. There will be many steps to the process. But first we must create an atmosphere of trust and assurance on the Hill that the advertising industry is a reliable partner.

The AAF’s Day on the Hill is our chance to create that trust. Nearly 75 advertising professionals from across the country will be traveling to Washington, D.C., to meet with their Senators and Representatives to start laying the groundwork for a national privacy standard.  Of course, that goodwill will pay dividends for other issues, including taxes and ad bans.

One of the most important aspects of the conference is that those 75 professionals come from all across the country. Remember Tip O’Neill’s observation? Those professionals are a living demonstration that advertising, like politics, is a local business that exists in every state and Congressional district.

Your lawmaker wants and needs to hear from you. Only you can make your voice heard. This is an important moment in history. Be a part of it.

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