Permission and privacy are the big issues in the email universe particularly where the FTC is concerned. The FTC’s proposed Behavioral Marketing Self Regulatory Principles could have a direct impact on ad targeting for all marketers including mailers. Couple this with the proposed legislation spearheaded by Governor M. Jodi Rell to make behavioral targeting “opt-out” in the State of Connecticut; marketers have some cause for concern.
The FTC’s call for “greater transparency and consumer control” along with the protection of sensitive data is of particular interest to those companies utilizing behavioral advertising to influence consumer behavior. Marketers who rely on behavioral targeting to create relevancy are concerned about their response rates, but is what the FTC proposing really so terrible? Let’s examine.
While there are five key principles, they all boil down to these main points for email.
Protecting subscriber privacy has been a long-standing issue that will likely gain more traction in 2008. And although behavioral data is used everywhere, the online marketing channel is unfortunately held to a much higher standard. Therefore, as marketers continue to find innovative ways to better understand their audiences and provide them with relevant content, the struggle to identify how much is too much goes on.
In the interim, marketers just have to find creative ways to self-regulate and be responsible. For example, AOL currently allows consumers to opt-out of behavioral targeting and couples it with a consumer awareness program that gives people “notice” about such advertising. While you may lose people who opt-out of the program, the value of the customers who voluntary stay on your list is much greater.
In my view, the FTC has not proposed anything “new.” We talk about transparency and consent every day here at Return Path. The challenge is finding the proper balance between marketer and subscriber to ensure that consumers trust their inbox and assess positive brand value to the marketers providing them with information they want to receive.