Advertisers launch campaign to bury "unfavorable media attention" over tracking

The Direct Marketing Association has launched a $1m campaign to convince the public that being tracked online creates "value for consumers".

The Data-Driven Marketing Institute will redouble DMA’s efforts to explain the benefits of the consumer data industry to the public and policymakers, with the goal of preventing needless regulation or enforcement that could severely hamper consumer marketing and stifle innovation, tamping down unfavorable media attention, and reminding and educating consumers about the many and varied ways that their needs are met and they are thrilled and delighted.

Isn't it a bit old-school to found scientific-sounding "institutes" to trick people into liking stuff that's bad for them? Very Big Tobacco.


  1. um… doesn’t this site use about ten of these tracking services?

    So, as little tobacco you can sort of answer the ‘does it create value to the customer’ question yourself.

      1. Boingboing is tracking it’s readers, so, what does all this tracking add to the site exactly?

        Is it their main source of income, does it allow them to find out what kind of stories we like to read or do they just like reading our facbook pages and selling our browser history to Putin?

        1. The premise of the post is that the campaign is intended to convince the consumer of tracking benefit regardless of benefit to the consumer for the fact of the benefit to the vendor. 

          BB doesn’t do that. So whether BB tracks to your benefit, theirs, or both is for you to decide, and make a choice. The proponents of the named campaign would seek to relieve you of that choice.

          So if BB tracks it is no hypocrisy, with relation to this post, it is immaterial.

    1. i love boingboing, but i can’t get my head around all these hang-wringing articles about ad tracking. what’s a good metaphor?  a smoking doctor talking about the evils of tobacco?

      1. Online advertising isn’t a bad thing, and Boing Boing uses it aswell. The point of these articles is that there is a general change in attitude towards online advertising. That it is better for users to opt in rather then have tracking be default. To be transparent about your cookie policies and what data you are collecting. A trend that the add industrie is against and wants to see go away so they can collect what ever they want regardless of how you as a visitor feel about it.

    1. “Listen to me, Hatcher. You’ve gotta tell them! Adlent Green is CONSUMERS! We’ve gotta stop them somehow!”

  2. “The consumer data industry” sounds so innocuous. I notice that they don’t use the word “track” either. I have yet to hear of anything that sounds like a real, tangible benefit for me.

  3. When I think about how selfless and kind the marketing industry is, how they offer us wonderful services like the possibility of having all our online activity tracked, purely for our benefit … why, I get a little choked up.

    Where else in today’s brutal, cutthroat world could you hope to find such generous philanthropists?

  4. @angusm – Think of all the money Big Oil has poured into the oceans. They’re such environmentalists.

  5. Advertising pays for online content and I prefer to see ads that are targeted to my interests.  Just because the DMA is using a tactic that has been abused by big tobacco doesn’t mean that the DMA’s message is harmful or untrue.    

    1. When advertising becomes the main source of revenue for content, how can you trust the quality of the editorial? But that’s not really the main concern. Don’t kid yourself. Ad revenue is falling, not rising. Ads are getting cheaper and cheaper every day. At some point the companies doing the tracking are going to have to find a way to supplement that revenue because it’s only going to continue falling. 

      What do those companies have that might be worth some money? You. And they aren’t just selling the data to other ad networks. Just continue being “thrilled and delighted” by the offerings of the DMA and you’ll eventually find your browser history included in employment background checks (with the interesting bits flagged for convenience). Don’t worry about the legality of it all. You’ve already opted in, and if you didn’t know that you could opt out (by installing an ad-blocker, cookie-blocker or someday using your browser’s Do Not Track features) that’s not the DMA’s fault. Those terms of service agreements you blithely click “Agree” on every time you register for a new site or service will cover most of the web soon enough (facebook has it mostly covered already).

      Pretty soon there will just be a list of sites that employers don’t want their employees to read, very similar to the lists that are already used to filter the internet connections in most schools and many businesses. BoingBoing is on a lot of those lists btw. You’ve already been logged. Hope you aren’t a teacher or don’t want to be one.

      1. Who are the employers of the future going to hire, exactly? Retired seniors who never bothered to learn how to use a computer? I mean, it’s hard enough to hire people that can pass a pee test in some industries. I don’t know that employers have the luxury of being nearly as picky as you’re suggesting!

      2. I’m with you in principle, but you’re not doing yourself any favors with the tin hat slippery slope arguments here.

        You’re stating this all as facts, which is basically a false premise. You have no actual evidence to back up that “soon there will just be a list of sites that employers don’t want their employees to read”, but you’re stating it as an established premise, like saying “Soon, the sun will set and we will go to sleep.” Also, your premise that Ad Revenue is falling is apparently entirely false, according to the following report: – not only is is rising, it’s rising dramatically. Can you refute that article to save your premise?

        In short – when we discuss these topics it should be from a reasoned stance like Frederik’s post higher up in this comment column, not with some sort of tinfoil hat “WHAT IF” mentality, as it shuts down any chance of meaningful discussion.

  6. DNT+ tells me that there are 8 companies attempting to track me from this site.

    I love the way they couch it as a ‘benefit’ to the customer.

    1.  Ghostery identifies DoubleClick, Google AdSense, Federated Media, ScoreCard, ValueClick, and all the major social networks (Facebook, gPlus, Twitter, etc).

  7. ” . . . reminding and educating consumers about the many and varied ways that their needs are met and they are thrilled and delighted.”

    I needed to be reminded that I am “thrilled and delighted.”

    1. Yes, if you don’t want to need to be reminded that you are thrilled and delighted, please view this ad from Pfizer and a representative will contact you with a convenient list of doctors perfectly willing to prescribe for a cut of the action. Thanks for playing!

  8. I am so sick of the word “consumer.”  I am not here to consume, and any corporation that thinks my function is to consume is evil.

  9. A $1M campaign? Just $1M? That will have as much impact on the public as a strand of gossamer floating gently into a maelstrom.

    1. And what about the name, “Data-Driven Marketing Institute”?  They aren’t even trying.  Everyone knows that a phony citizen friendly organization should use names like “Consumer Freedom” or try to get the word “family” in there somewhere.  Maybe “Family Consumer Freedom of Choice Institute”.

      1. No you got a divisor in that last one, you need

        “Family Consumer Freedom of Freedom Institute for Free with Purchase”.

        The divisor was Freedom of Choice, would have put off a lot of people for different reasons.

  10. Whew!  Had to catch my breath after reading the DMA quote.  That’s one LONG sentence!  I’ve worked in state gov’t 10+ years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned for sure, it’s that any sentence that long points directly toward failure.

  11. Imagine leaving your house and being followed by some suit with a clipboard. He checks what shop windows you look in, which stores you enter, what products you examine, what goods you buy, the coffee shops you go to, what pub you drink in, what clubs you frequent, which books you read, the news programs you pay attention to, everything that you do in your day-to-day life. None of us would tolerate that in our offline lives, so why should we tolerate it in our online lives?

    1. You got one too? 

      mix a gallon of Febreze® with 12 ounces of Diet Coke®, heat to 200 degrees and spray directly in the eyes of your follower.

      That will work for about a week.

        1. Tracking notes:
          1100-Subject enters Mall
          1130-Subject purchases purell and wetnaps
          1200-Subject enters cineplex, puchases ticket, gargantuan popcorn and 64oz Dr Pepper.
          1350-Subject enters pharmacy, purchases epicac syrup
          1355-Subject violently vomits repeatedly on tracking agent.
          1400-Subject follows tracking agent to company vehicle
          1405-Subject smashes driver’s window and continues to vomit into vehicle.

  12. I reckon I’ve been on the net since 1994 or thereabouts and it seems like in the last few months alone the intrusion of ads on pages has tripled. It was bound to happen – this wild thing called the web doomed to become just another mass marketing ploy. I have lovingly maintained several sites myself since the late 90s all completely ad-free. I understand it’s no way to run a business but it seems like in years past there were more destinations where a surfer could go and just see cool content without kamikaze ads that spring to life if you mistakenly mouse over them.

    There was a time when the web at least partly functioned as a virtual neighborhood where one could wander in and out of odd little sites ( used to be a great site until it was bought by that notorious fishmeal maker-turned internet company back in the net bubble) and see what real, creative people were up to. Day by day the net’s just becoming a giant advert vehicle. Maybe I’ll make my upcoming 20 year anniversary online my time to say bye-bye and unplug. Ugh.

  13. The Pledge Form on there is especially twee.   Oh, hell yeah, I feel morally obliged to protect data driven marketing from regulation or oversight!  This is how they reach out to John and Jane Q. Public?  Do they really think anyone but a professional spammer would ever sign this? 

  14. If “information wants to be free,” doesn’t that include information on what consumers are doing?

    On the other hand, forcing the companies to say what they collected is a violation of the right to remain silent…

Comments are closed.