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Goldstein: New Media Spurs Privacy Concerns

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ORLANDO, FLA. While new digital media platforms empower marketers to reach consumers just about everywhere, advertisers and their agencies must be more mindful of privacy issues going forward, said Marc Goldstein, North American CEO of WPP's GroupM and chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies' media policy committee.

Goldstein, in remarks he made at the 4A's Media Conference here today, said marketers have a "so-so record" of protecting consumer privacy given the vast amounts of junk mail, spam and pop-ups that permeate digital marketing communications. The industry, he said, has to do a better job of proactively managing the privacy issue, or "the government could take the decision away from us."

Thanks to all the new digital tracking capabilities, said Goldstein, "it's quite possible that 1984 is here, just 24 years later than Orwell predicted." And the privacy issue will only get bigger over time as the industry becomes even more technologically advanced, he said. "When that happens, some of the arguments for and against the microscopic, electronic tracking of consumer behavior will reach the footsteps of media agencies," he said, because they are investing millions in new digital programs and products to perform those tasks. "This is something I believe we are all going to have to think very long and hard about [as agencies] may find ourselves at the very heart of the debate."

Goldstein said that digital applications are transforming the entire media business and that he and presumably many other media agency leaders lose sleep thinking about how to harness all the potential that digital offers to help improve service to clients.

That said, he stressed that media shops also have to focus on what he called "the now," referring to traditional media, where many marketers still spend the vast amount of their ad budgets. "Regardless of your distribution, we must recognize that there's a need to take care of not only all the things that are changing, but all the things that I can take advantage of and make use of now, that I can measure and test now, that I can touch and feel and see now."

So between managing the future and dealing with the here and now, Goldstein told attendees, "fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride!"