Fast Chat: DMA’s Peggy Hudson on Defense of Data Marketing

Sets ambitious agenda and forms Data Protection Alliance

Peggy Hudson truly enjoys walking into a room full of 100 strangers and leaving knowing most of them. A quintessential Washington insider, Hudson is now relying on her well-honed D.C. contacts and lobbying chops for the Direct Marketing Association as its new svp of government affairs.

Adweek talked with Hudson the day after the DMA unveiled an ambitious five-point legislative agenda and announced the formation of the Data Protection Alliance to advocate for laws and regulations that protect the data-driven marketing economy.

Most of your lobbying experience has been in the energy field (oil and gas), so what brought you to the DMA and data marketing? A large part of it was Linda Woolley [DMA president and CEO]. We've known each other a long time and she approached me. She knows what she's getting. She'll let me run my program and she knows I'll cover her back. The industry is going through a reinvention. It still relies on direct mail, but it's changing to digital and there is no turning back. Being on the bottom of the floor is the fun part.

Since your experience has been in energy, do you have to make all new contacts in Washington? There's a lot of overlap, but you have to stay in front of members of Congress. I worked at home for a while and I don't like it. You have to get out and recreate yourself and your brand. You have to reconnect. Lawmakers see so many people all the time that if you don't stay in touch, keep that face up, participate in the fundraisers or think tanks, you are more out of sight out of mind.

The House has seen a lot of change. You have to reassess the committees and the members. Who's moving up in leadership? You're always looking at who's the future. Whether you represent oil and cement or data brokers, it's all about having people getting educated on your issues.

What do you like best about lobbying? I love the whole sales piece, whether it's defense or offense. It's the strategy of identifying the issue, finding your champions, locating your opponents and recognizing there is compromise in everything.

Compromise sounds like a foreign word for Congress these days… A lot of people who remember what consensus is aren't there anymore. I don't know how we're going to fix this gridlock.

Would you rather be on offense or defense? It's more fun on offense because you have the ability to get people excited and lead the track. But defense can be fun. We certainly played a lot of defense at BP and at the oil and gas industry.

Is the data marketing industry playing offense or defense? The DMA is playing a lot of defense because of lawmakers like Sen. Jay Rockefeller 's (D-W.Va.) and the Federal Trade Commission's investigations into data brokers. The whole new view of what happened with the NSA is also a big factor. Edward Snowden has awakened everyone's sensitivities to where their data is going. We're playing defense and trying to figure out how to get policymakers to separate data marketing from government surveillance.

How worried about Washington should data marketers and data brokers be? The concern is getting legislators to recognize the difference between government surveillance and data for marketing. The DMA's new study gives us a lot of ammunition to talk about the industry. It's important that we continue to educate. We have to continue to defend self-regulation; regulators need to trust us. We have to show them we are doing the right thing. So when you have a bad player and you can't resolve it, you have to turn that person in [to the Federal Trade Commission].

How do you respond to the creepy data argument? There's a lack of knowledge out there. We have to do a better job of educating. Marketers are using data for marketing purposes and studies show consumers like that. We have to address that creepy factor. We'll do further studies—one focused on consumers.