October 15th, 2012 by Judith Aquino

DMA CEO and president Linda Woolley

Direct Marketing Association CEO and president Linda Woolley kicked off the DMA2012 conference today with a dire description of the future: “[Federal Trade Commission Chairman] Jon Leibowitz has succeeded in passing a bill that says no consumer data can be collected without permission,” Woolley told nearly 10,000 marketers in Las Vegas. “In this future world the FTC requires us to give consumers permission to correct their marketing data…it’s a world where customer service deteriorates. You check into a hotel chain for the 47th night and the desk clerk asks, ‘have you ever stayed with us before?’”

To combat what Woolley describes as an attempt by the “privacy zealots” to scare the public with their “privacy rhetoric” the DMA plans to devote more than $1 million to an initiative that will provide research, consumer education, and lobbying efforts in opposition to data-regulating legislation.

“A lot of fear mongering out there that is inaccurate. It’s time to correct these mischaracterizations and apprehensions,” Woolley maintained.

Lisa Arthur, chief marketing officer of integrated marketing software maker Aprimo, agreed that educating both the public and marketers about the use of consumer data is necessary. “Education is important, not only for consumers, but marketers as well,” Arthur told CRM. “Some marketers are still learning that they have to be more transparent [about their operations] and that they can’t spam people.”

Being required to ask consumers for permission to access their personal data would not necessarily place marketers at a disadvantage, suggested Jennie O’Leary, director of marketing and communications at Entertainment Promotions, a B2B discount and promotions provider, as long as marketers provide compelling offers.

“If the offer is compelling enough, consumers will opt in to receive it,” O’Leary said. “To receive our coupons, for example, you must become a member. Even if opting-in becomes a requirement, that just means companies will have to give consumers a reason to want their product [or service].”

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