Monday, April 19, 2010

How to completely disappear in 45 minutes or less (at least from marketers)

Just been reading the FTC complaint against... well, against everyone I know, it seems: the exchanges, the DSPs, the data targeters, the ad agencies, the analytics companies, the whole quantitative marketing shebang. It was pretty straightforward, quoting everyone's marketing material, making the industry seem much, much larger than it actually is*.

Ed Zimmerman has a much better response than I could write, so I'm not going to critique the thing, but one paragraph really jumps out at me.

The value of user data harnessed by these platforms and services is generating higher returns for marketers. Publishers, ad agencies, and marketers are all trying to capitalize on the data of each consumer--thereby causing that consumer a financial loss. None of the so-called consumer benefits of real-time targeting--the "faster loading times" for an ad and whether they provide a "better user experience make up for this financial loss. The availability of so-called free content is an insufficient return to a consumer for their loss of privacy, including their autonomy.
The first sentence is interesting because I doubt it is, in general, true, or will ever be. If RTB and its ilk make the whole system more efficient, it is not the marketer that will garner the efficiency. Economics tell us that the main beneficiary will ultimately be the consumer.

The rest of the paragraph is a bit murky and illogical until the last sentence: targeting is corrosive of privacy and autonomy. Long-time readers will know that I don't disagree with this sentiment.

But I've become a bit cynical about consumer privacy. Having been involved in a failed bid to create a product that would safeguard consumer data while allowing marketers to compensate the consumer to use the data, I don't believe that consumers really care enough about their privacy to actually do anything about it. Even the most ardent complainers about the intrusiveness of advertising won't spend more than a few minutes of their time protecting their privacy. This says to me that their privacy is worth nothing to them (but complaining about it is worth something, I think.)

If you really care enough to spend a few minutes, you can do something about it:
This will protect your privacy from pretty much everyone except your government. If you want your department of motor vehicles to stop selling your information (yes, they do) you'll have to write them a letter and put it in the mail.

* It also highlighted the importance of, who was cited as a source of industry info in at least half the footnotes.


cbrucculeri said...

..."privacy is worth nothing to them (but complaining about it is worth something, I think.)"

I couldn't agree more with this sentence. I take steps to protect my privacy, but I suspect that most people I know do not.

Jonathan Mendez said...

I'm pretty adamant about privacy regulation actually helping our industry but we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot by not steering legislation. No wonder we're walking on crutches.

It's partly a question of awareness. Millions of people signed up for the Do Not Call registry the day it was announced in 2003 (even thought there had been state lists for sometime prior that few knew about).

The flip side is also true. People say one thing about privacy and then do another. Actions should speak louder than words.

My point of view is there has been a decade of irrelevance, annoyance and poor experiences with display advertising. Pop-ups, unders, pre-rolls, push-downs, takeovers, on and on. It wouldn't be so bad if it all was relevant ads. Why would anyone believe there is some magic relevance bullet coming that's going to make targeting valuable to them. There isn't and they shouldn't. Either way people will keep doing what they're doing. Ignoring display ads.

dherman76 said...

Are you becoming cynical because you are getting older? :)

All kidding aside, is the government going to resurrect Root markets?

Jerry Neumann said...

I prefer to think I'm becoming cynical because I'm getting wiser :)

I'm also cynical about the government doing anything constructive about privacy... CAN-SPAM anyone?

Unknown said...

NAI - OK, that seemed to work, except for AdBrite, which refused to let me opt out.

DNC - The site is currently down for maintenance. I imagine the servers are currently jacked up at a mechanics while the hard drives are being 'aligned'

DMA - That worked, after I signed up (providing a bunch of PII), clicked the confirmation email, then went through and clicked each section.

Credit Agencies - That worked. Again, long form.

Axciom - SQL Server error. Fail.

Intelius - They want me to fax them a form. Not going to happen in the next 10 minutes. Fail.

ChoicePoint - Success.


Jerry Neumann said...

AdBrite refused to let you opt-out? That has to be a bug. I don't know those guys, or I would mention it to them. Anybody?

The DNC must be down because of the massive traffic I am sending to it from this blog post :)

Someone should create a unified tool to deregister people from all of these (and any others.) Funny that CDD and PIRG would rather sue than do something constructive.

Unknown said...

Update: I got passed the SQL failure on the Axciom site and opted out.

Or so I thought.

Today I received, via snail mail, 40 pages of material from Axciom, along with a form that I now need to sign and send back to them. At my own cost.

Jerry Neumann said...

They seem to be conducting a natural experiment in what people will pay for privacy.

It is interesting to contrast their approach to the NAIs and then wonder why all the legislative machinery is aimed at online.