I ran into trouble because I didn't keep it simple in this space two weeks ago. I feel kind of silly for how I depicted Atlas DMT as being in the business of buying media against which to gather user data. The ad-serving company is not in that business, of course.
The fact is that interactive media has pushed the edges of the frontier of what is acceptable to consumers and privacy advocates. This is part of what makes interactive marketing as effective as it is. But how many of our campaigns cross the line without those of us on the buying end knowing?
That was a core element to the point I was trying to illustrate in that column from two weeks on data harvesting. If we're going to become regarded as reputably as other kinds of media against which we fight for budget, we have to be held to a higher standard. For four or five years now, leaders who represent our interactive industry's interests have been working with major media sites, advertisers, and Congress on best practices for adware, cookies, and how they are used by Web marketers and publishers. At the OMMA East conference next week, on Wednesday afternoon, I'll be moderating a session that will feature some of these leaders.
We've designed this session to bring attendees up to date on what Congress is thinking, what major sites and advertisers are doing, and what anyone who drops a cookie on users' hard drives should be aware of. This panel, titled: "Privacy and Public Perception: Where Brand Stewardship and ROI Intersect," will feature:
-- Trevor Hughes, the executive director of the Network Advertising Initiative, the organization that Congress and the regulatory bodies throughout the world look to for the industry's credible viewpoint;
-- Alan Chapell, president, Chapell & Associates, one of the industry's most published and respected privacy authorities;
-- Brooks Dobbs, associate privacy officer, DoubleClick, the guy who was publicly praised for his tireless efforts at educating lawmakers on how our industry works (the praiser was the General Counsel of the House Committee responsible for oversight of our industry); and
-- Nick Nyhan, who recently sold his company, Dynamic Logic, to Millward Brown, but who will appear as a representative of SafeCount, an industry organization formed six months ago to foster the creation of a set of online measurement protocols that consumers can not only live with, but also benefit from -- be they cookies or something else.
Anyone who follows the cookie debate and other online privacy and business/security issues knows that our industry has long been held to a far higher standard than other kinds of media. Maybe we should be. After all, short of anything involving actual theft (identity or otherwise), the downsides of invasive practices are probably worse for consumers on the Web than they are on, say, television.
The fact that we tout our industry's accountability sets us up for this kind of scrutiny too, of course. As Claria chief privacy officer Reed Freeman said at the NAI Summit last spring, "Anything that makes our industry practices more transparent is a good thing." We have a ways to go in interactive before we can tout our industry's transparency. Some of the individuals who shape how we present our industry to regulatory bodies around the world -- and even to consumers in general -- will be on the dais next Wednesday. Your humble moderator will do all he can to keep it simple -- for all of us.