List Roundtable What can list professionals do now to prevent
Chicca D'Agostino, president, Focus USA
Given recent developments, it appears unlikely that we will be able to prevent future legislation. The best we can do is try to mitigate it. Apart from data security, another major issue is how we treat consumers via our advertising messages. All of us—brokers, managers and list owners—need to screen advertising offers. Don't rent or broker names unless you have seen the offer. If you feel it invades a consumer's privacy, reveals specific details about a family, is deceptive, or is not in compliance with GLB, FACTA and other laws—try to have the copy corrected … or reject it.
Many times marketers don't realize they may be pushing the envelope too far. But most are responsible and will make copy changes when warranted. For example, a publisher targeting the parents of pre-schoolers, "spoke" to the parent about her pre-schooler. After we suggested a minor copy change to: "If you happen to have a pre-schooler in the family …" the company understood the distinction and made the change.
Some offers, however, are intentionally deceptive, such as advertising a free hotel stay that is only partially free because the offer terms require you to pay full-fare coach, not economy coach, the difference being nearly equal to the cost of the hotel. Much of it is common sense. If it doesn't "feel" right in your gut, the offer should probably be rejected. The complete Direct Marketing Association (DMA) guidelines for screening offers is on its Web site.
Remember: Government officials also are consumers who will be receiving our advertising offers, whether we screen them or not.
Harriet Heyman, vice president, strategic consultant, Harte-Hanks
The low level of consumer trust in the direct marketing business likely has taken a further hit with the media attention on the ChoicePoint story. Marketers and list professionals must take the following steps toward respectability: