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List Marketers: Now Would Be A Good Time To Write Your Congressperson

Date: January, 2014 --

The data marketing industry is currently facing its first serious legislative challenge since the dawn of the Big Data revolution courtesy of the US Congress and, more specifically, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV). Senator Rockefeller and his likeminded colleagues have slandered the data industry, making specific examples of some of the industry’s larger and more visible players, going as far as to call industry practices ‘lethal’ and accusing data companies of preying on those in society who are less fortunate.

Senator Rockefeller’s attack on the data marketing industry, no doubt another effort on his part to distance himself from the type of capitalism responsible for the provenance of his surname, is one driven by gut feelings and innuendo rather than empirical evidence. In a recent hearing on the topic he stated, “I can’t prove it’s wrong, but there’s something lethal about it”… “There’s something unfair about it. If somebody is poor or less educated, and this is my life; I come from West Virginia, they’re stigmatized. They have to live with it. The system is stacked against them. And a lot of people are making a lot of money out of it.” (The “this is my life” quote is just laughable coming from the 5th wealthiest member of congress according to Roll Call).

If nothing else, this shows a serious lack of understanding of the data marketing industry and a surprising lack of understanding of how every business in the country utilizes data in order to start, grow and market themselves more efficiently. Not to mention the hypocrisy of this criticism coming from a group of politicians who are themselves, along with the groups advocating on their behalf, amongst the largest consumers of these exact data elements to target voters with pinpoint accuracy in their own fundraising and election campaigns.

Senator Rockefeller has characterized the data marketing industry as one that operates under a “veil of secrecy”, but he has mischaracterized an industry that operates to fulfill a niche business requirement with a resulting popular ignorance amongst the average consumer.

Are 100% of those that purchase this data doing so in a manner that meets the ethical standards set forth by the industry’s governing bodies? Of course not (as we mentioned there are politicians using this data). But this does not mean that data companies should be required to disclose their proprietary business practices and be precluded from making types of data selects, including those in the crosshairs that are today used effectively by countless marketers, available to marketers.

There are some on the committee who seem to have a better understanding of the value this data adds to marketing practices, such as Senator John Thune (R-SD) who stated, “Data-driven marketing can provide benefits and greater convenience to consumers”… “It can lower the cost of products and services because businesses can target marketing more precisely. It also can help businesses create and sell products that consumers actually want, lowering start-up costs for new businesses.", but it’s up to those of us in the industry to ensure theirs is the prevailing opinion.

Therefore we urge all our readers to call or write their congressperson and tell them about your business and the value added by the data marketing industry. Be sure to also cite the recent study by the Data-Driven Marketing Institute (DDMI) - The Value of Data: Consequences for Insight, Innovation & Efficiency in the U.S. Economy - which credits the industry with contributing $156 Billion and 676,000 jobs to the US economy in 2012. Make no mistake, these are dollar and employment figures that would be directly affected if privacy groups and some in congress get their way.

More useful articles for news and opinion on this topic:
Report: Data Sharing Propels $156B Marketing Data Industry - Ad Age – 10/15/2013
Rockefeller Calls Data Brokers 'Lethal' in Senate Committee Hearing - Direct Marketing News – 12/19/2013
Yow: Senate Commerce Chair Calls Marketing 'Lethal' - The Magill Report – 12/24/2013