When old-time mom-and-pop grocery stores knew customers by name, house number and favorite products, that was called "service." When marketers do it today, it's called "behavioral targeting."
Data are at the heart of every consumer-friendly initiative marketers have undertaken in the last decade. Consumers don't want spam. They don't want to be treated like numbers. They don't want to have to tell you information they've already told you. They want to be able to buy stuff wherever they happen to be with whatever payment device is handy to them. All of those things require marketers to collect data. Effectively connecting consumers with the products they want takes data. Not wasting consumers' time takes data.
From that point of view, data collection should be seen as a relatively good thing by most consumers. But it isn't. It's seen as "behavioral targeting" and an invasion of privacy.
Larry Kimmel hates the term "behavioral targeting." The CEO of DMA has said so on several occasions, including a recent Direct Marketing Club of New York luncheon. He claims that it misrepresents what marketers do. He's right.
"Behavioral targeting" sounds creepy—like some kind of mind-reading apparatus put to the insidious service of making people buy stuff against their will. I remember when I first heard about experiments with subliminal messages in ads. (A couple short advertising messages displayed at unnoticeable durations during a movie in the '50s supposedly increased the theater's Coke sales by 18 percent and popcorn by 58 percent. Those claims turned out to be bogus—see snopes.com—but the popular myth remains.) It felt unfair and wrong, blatantly manipulative and vaguely fascist. Well, that's what consumers think when they hear "behavioral targeting," and it's what they think when they hear marketers are collecting their data and even selling the information to other companies.