Making a Complaint to the FTC Based on Promotional Materials and Out-of-Context Quotes Can Make You Look Foolish

So this is the underlining problem with the filing with the FTC.  The CCD and the US PIRG have based all of their points on the promotional material that they have found on the Web sites and the marketing material that they have obtained from the companies they attacked in their filing.


No interviews were conducted, no customers were conducted.  No focus groups were assembled and no surveys were taken to investigate whether the public actually feels like their personal privacy is being violated.


Let’s face it.  I am in sales and so are a lot of you.  Whether you are an agency person, an advertiser or someone that is in some manner promoting yourself, your company or your capabilities you are selling something.  When we sell, promote or persuade we sell.  We present capabilities in the best possible light using the most persuasive language and speak to the lowest common denominator.  Most of all, we speak and write in a manner that conveys compelling interest that will resonate with the target audience.  Promotional materials rarely demonstrate accurate representations of what technologies actually do.  All of my arguments about behavioral targeting is a perfect example of this.  The industry has bastardized this term because it resonates with the market and conveys the idea of being able to target people’s behaviors online.  Even when in fact that is not what the technology is actually doing.


The FTC complaint uses ValueClick as an example of behavioral targeting, it describes the company as already knowing a lot about people online, “…using personal data collection and Web analytics to craft highly personalized marketing campaigns.”  But the citation that the filing uses to support its argument comes directly from the ValuClick promotional Web site:


ValueClick Media’a behavioral targeting solutions give you the ability to identify and communicate with specific users based on their past web browsing behavior.  With User Re-Targeting, ValueClick can identify and serve customized messaging to consumers who have demonstrated an active interest in your product or service by having visited your site.


This promotional statement does not explain that the event-based targeting solution is anonymous based targeting.  It does not explain that the approach is pixel-targeting with third-party cookies that get deleted 40% of the time and have a 60% accuracy or penetration with your desired audience.  It does not explain that there is not Personally Identifiable Information (PII) collected or leveraged by the process.  Privacy is not impacted by this solution.  The filers of the FTC complaint have read and interpreted the promotional materials on this Web site at face value and provided it as evidence without comprehending what it means.


To make matters worse, the very next paragraph claims that the targeting can be complemented with demographic targeting (Age, Gender, HHI, # of Children, Household size, Education Level, Race) from Comscore MediaMetrix.  This information is maintained based on database aggregation sources from publishers.  So an advertiser can buy media on web sites that maintain this information who have collected it from users who knowingly provided it!  Do people provide information about themselves with no expectation of what it may be used for?  Furthermore, is demographic information provate?  Comscore’s demographic database information is aggregated and anonymous so again I ask you where is the violation.


The writers of the FTC complaint clearly do not know what they are talking about.  Were not advised by industry experts.  Did not take the care to investigate the solutions they are attacking.  And are now looking foolish in the eyes of anyone who comprehends this industry and the solutions that comprise our way of conducting business online.

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