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Brill Keynote, Capitol Hill Visits Highlight 'DMA in DC' Event

4 Apr, 2012 By: Thomas Haire

WASHINGTON – Timeliness, truthful discussion and thought-provoking meetings headlined last week’s “DMA in DC” event, created and hosted by the Direct Marketing Association at the offices of Venable LLP and around the congressional offices of Capitol Hill. The first day of the event was highlighted by a lunchtime keynote from Julie Brill, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) commissioner, just 90 minutes after the FTC released a long-awaited report on online privacy (Response This Week, March 28), while day two featured a series of visits by direct marketing and direct response industry insiders to the offices of nine U.S. Senators and six members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Response was one of six sponsors for the event that hosted more than 100 industry leaders. “Sponsoring the DMA in DC 2012 event and partnering with the leaders in government affairs and regulatory work across the world of direct response marketing was a great choice,” says John Yarrington, publisher of Response. “The DMA’s years of experience in carrying the torch for marketers in Washington shone through, from the stellar lineup of speakers from government agencies, top law firms and key marketers. At the same time, the care the DMA took in selecting members of Congress with influence in the spaces that matter to direct marketers created intriguing and knowledgeable conversations between our breakout groups and the legislators and their aides.”

From free-trial auto renewal legislation to concerns around negative option marketing, online privacy and robocalling, Monday’s educational sessions allowed marketers to gain a tremendous grasp on where government leaders and regulators are focusing.

“There were 336,000 Do-Not Call complaints in February 2012,” said Lois Greisman, associate director of the division of marketing practices for the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, during one morning session. “Of those, 200,000 were related to robocalling. If we are going to solve this issue, we must work together.” She also warned marketers – whether the topic was robocalling or another area – to make sure they are diligent about background checks of their partner vendors and agencies.

“You must really know how all of your partners do business. Otherwise you are putting yourself at risk of becoming entangled with the FTC,” she said, also mentioning that the FTC had just closed more than $1 billion in settlements with marketers involved in negative option marketing violations in the past year.

Helen MacMurray, partner at MacMurray, Petersen and Shuster LLP, was also part of the same panel. “There are three legs to fighting the robocalling issue – industry self-regulation, government enforcement and consumer education,” she said. “And industry associations are only as good as the worst members they back. You must draw a line in the sand and hold to it.”

But the highlight of the day’s sessions was Brill’s address coming on the heels of the FTC’s privacy report. She gave the commission’s first public comment on the report at her lunchtime talk, beginning by saying, “There are three tenets behind the findings and proposals in the online privacy report – privacy by design, simplified consumer choice and greater transparency.”

Brill also said the FTC is urging businesses to de-identify as much consumer information as possible in order to protect consumers while still being able to maximize marketing opportunities. She also laid out the five key “to-do’s” for the FTC when considering next steps in the privacy debate: how do-not-track regulation might work; the ramifications of mobile marketing; regulating data brokers; comprehensive tracking concepts; and self-regulation efforts.

The event’s second day saw attendees, led by the DMA’s government affairs staff, visiting offices across Capitol Hill.

“I appreciated the opportunity to speak with folks who live and breathe the process of shaping our ideas and public concerns into laws,” said Jill Eastman Vidal, director of business development for Inc., in Carle Place, N.Y. “I especially enjoyed hearing the point of view of Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) assistant, Danny Sepulveda, who actually helped pen the Kerry/McCain privacy legislation, as he clearly understands – and could effectively communicate – the background and positioning of that bill.”

Dennis Dayman, chief privacy and security officer of Vienna, Va.-based Eloqua, added, “The annual DMA in DC event is an exciting one for me because it gives me time to reach out to those Congressional members who have a real interest in protecting the privacy and security of individuals and help educate them on technology issues to ensure that we can work on a solution beneficial for all that continues innovation, such as social media."

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