The direct marketing business, which is just about every company these days that uses data to more precisely target customers and prospects, could be in for the fight of its life.
“The threats to what we do are looming large, both in Washington, across the ocean and in state legislatures,” Linda Woolley, the president and CEO of the Direct Marketing Association told members meeting in Washington, D.C.
In the past year, a number of lawmakers in the House and Senate, as well as the Federal Trade Commission, have zeroed in on the privacy practices of data brokers. They have broadened their definition of data brokers beyond the usual suspects of companies such as Acxiom, Epsilon and Experian to include any company that collects, uses, analyzes, aggregates, shares or takes in data for third parties.
“Most of you probably don’t consider yourself a data broker, but the government says all of you are,” said Jerry Cerasale, DMA’s svp of government affairs. “The government forgets data is involved in everything it does as well.”
DMA members will hit Capitol Hill tomorrow to defend their business to congressional lawmakers on the House and Senate commerce and judiciary committees and warn them that restricting the business could have an adverse impact on an already shaky economy. Among the lawmakers on the DMA’s visit list are Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Reps. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).
“I hope you’ll let people know we are responsible for 8.7 percent of the GDP, $168 billion in spending, $2.05 trillion in sales, 9.2 million jobs,” said Rachel Thomas, vp of government affairs for the DMA.
Members will also talk up the association’s participation in the Digital Advertising Alliance’s self-regulation program that gives consumers the choice to opt-out of online behavioral advertising, as well as initiatives in the works to craft mobile guidelines.
The DMA has been cranking up its lobbying efforts since last fall with the formation of the Data Driven Marketing Institute, a coordinated campaign of education, advocacy and research to “set the record straight” about the benefits of data-driven marketing.