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It’s 2011. Everything we do, say, like, and click on is tracked and known to the higher gods of the inter-webs. At least that’s what my co-workers Ruth Suehle and Bascha Harris always remind me. And I get it. I do. But when I log into Facebook or my GMail account and see ads served up to me that reference current conversations with friends or target my recent searches on Amazon, I still get weirded out. Why is that?
I have an idea why. Brands are built around trust, promises, and expectations. When I see that a brand I trust has inserted themselves into my daily routine without invitation, I’m given a cause for pause. And when I’m given cause to suspect that this interruption is because of information that I’ve given to them unwittingly, I feel betrayed (think three-way call incident in Mean Girls). Slowly but surely it can start to erode my confidence and decrease my investment in the brands I trust over time.
Why am I bringing this up now? I’m currently trying to process all of the incredible concepts being discussed at Federated Media’s 6th Conversational Marketing Summit at the historic Hudson Theater in New York, NY. Evidon CEO, Scott Meyer, spoke about some of the technology that is giving back control to the end user and enabling brands to be more transparent (and adherent) about their data collection.
Evidon helps companies ensure that they are consistent with the FTC's principles and the ad industry's self-regulatory principles to protect consumers. Meyer stressed the importance of privacy guidelines and how adherence to them is crucial. He gave some examples of company's that did not follow these and were not so "transparent" (or even honest) about their data collection and now have 20 year reporting demands put on them by the FTC. He then posed a question to the entrepreneurs and starts-up in the room and said “try to sell your company when it has a 20 year data collection reporting sentence attached to it.” Some people laughed, some people gulped.
Meyer also had some staggering statistics to reassure that companies are able to do this and still maintain their brand's integrity without giving up their strategic advantage. Meyer shared that of the ads delivered where consumers were able to view the data collected about them and see the actual cookie generated, only one out of every 700,000 people opted-out after seeing that data.
This crystallized the concept that transparency is critical to the health of any successful organization-- especially a brand-- because it's critical to the relationship that it's meant to facilitate. Transparency is fundamental to all strong, fruitful, healthy relationships. And it's no surprise that transparency is also core to the open source way.