Canadians condemn DoubleClick profiling plans

Canadian reaction to the conundrum of DoubleClick - the New York-based Internet advertising firm that was forced to backtrack on its plans to provide marketers with the names of anonymous Web surfers - has been swift and unequivocal. What the company...

Canadian reaction to the conundrum of DoubleClick – the New York-based Internet advertising firm that was forced to backtrack on its plans to provide marketers with the names of anonymous Web surfers – has been swift and unequivocal. What the company was proposing was wrong, say industry representatives, and would have backfired eventually.

John Gustavson, president of the Canadian Marketing Association, says Canadian consumers are already concerned about their privacy and security on the Net, and DoubleClick’s proposal to link online movements to a massive consumer database only exacerbates the problem.

‘It’s the sort of thing that does nothing to help e-commerce, acts as an impediment to its growth, and can lead to restrictive legislation.

‘If you want to sell somebody something, you have to make them feel comfortable,’ he adds. ‘And that means it is in your own best interest to make your privacy policy highly visible.’

Nancy Lee Jobin, president of Graffiti Direct & Promotion in Toronto, adds that profiling itself is a useful and respected business practice – provided the consumer understands it’s being done.

‘Profiling goes on in many industries, and if people know they are being profiled, it’s OK,’ she says. ‘But opting in (giving permission) has to be the way to go.’

David Jones, president of Electronic Frontier Canada in Kitchener, Ont., says that what made DoubleClick’s practice especially dubious is that it went on without the consumer being aware of it. ‘There is not the usual knowledge and consent you should have when someone is collecting personal information,’ he says. ‘This is one of the reasons why the Canadian government is going to pass Bill C-6 (privacy legislation designed to protect personal information collected during the course of e-commerce activities).’

George Gonzo, sales and marketing manager for Calgary-based CyberSurf – one of a handful of Internet service providers (ISPs) that offer free Internet access to their subscribers in return for the customer’s permission to market to them – took a dim view of DoubleClick’s practices.

‘We believe an individual’s privacy is sacrosanct,’ he says.

CyberSurf’s customers register by filling out a 30-question survey. The data is aggregated according to demographics. Marketers send messages on that basis – not based on individual responses.

‘We think that’s a pretty fair trade-off,’ adds Gonzo. ‘If [the consumer doesn't] agree with someone’s practices, eventually the clock will run out on them. People will cancel their accounts or move their business elsewhere.’

In a keynote address at Strategy’s recent Online to Profit conference, Nathan Estruth of Procter & Gamble’s I-Ventures unit said all marketers should take DoubleClick’s recent comeuppance as a warning.

‘The consumer is in charge,’ he said. ‘They dictate how and where we use their data. That is not the mind-set we are used to dealing with. We need to build a new kind of trust with consumers and regulators where the consumer allows us to enter their world and remember information for them, not about them.

‘If we don’t go there, the week that (DoubleClick CEO) Kevin O’Connor had last week is soon coming upon us.’

In the face of mounting pressure from privacy advocates and legal experts, O’Connor last week issued a public statement, saying: ‘It is clear…that I made a mistake by planning to merge names with anonymous user activity across Web sites in the absence of government and industry privacy standards.’

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group