Friday, October 22, 2010

Esther Dyson to marketers: wise up

After years of tracking users as quietly as possible and feigning shock when caught, somebody in marketing gets it. Liz Gannes of reports that Esther Dyson, chairman of Edventure Holdings spoke to the Pivot Marketing Conference.

Ms. Dyson has a clear message to marketers, and it can be summed up easily. Communicate. Get rid of the complicated, obfuscating privacy policies. Use the same targeting skills you use on ads to tailor your message to the individual surfer, tell them what you are gathering, why, and what you are doing with it. Then, give them the real option to opt out. Her assertion is that many won't because once they know how they benefit by being tracked they won't want to lose it.

I don't know why that is so hard to figure out - although I'm not sure I like the idea of them using the information illicitly gathered to craft a message especially designed to convince me to give more information. But it would be too much to expect that marketers would simply open up and let us choose. They have the information, and the don't want to lose the source.

Esther Dyson marveled that marketers can figure out how to target ads to individuals but can't figure out how to target the message that tracking benefits them. She is correct on both counts. It's amazing that marketers haven't figured out how to create targeted messages about tracking, and there are benefits to being tracked. I don't think the benefits are worth it. You might disagree. But neither of us is being allowed to make that choice, and that is the problem.