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Privacy – What Advertisers Can Learn from the TSA

I’ve mentioned before that I really like many of the cartoons that @TomFishburne sends out in his Brand Camp posts.  Today’s Brand Camp cartoon really hit home because it’s something I’ve tweeted about long ago.

I remember seeing this TSA sticker (below) posted on the x-ray machine at an airport I can’t recall in the blur of  airport visits throughout the year.  Although the sticker doesn’t ask me to “Like” the TSA, it does ask me to follow.  Close enough. I have little interest in reading whatever it is the TSA blogs about, especially since I doubt they have a decent mechanism on their blog to actually engage (and make changes) with the flying public.

Three things I think brands can learn from this simple cartoon and sticker.

  • Without an interesting message and a reason to truly engage, nobody wants to be your friend
  • Transparency and trust is important – the TSA does x-ray your bag and put you through a sensor
  • Be upfront and state the benefit – The TSA clearly states their expectations to travelers. The benefit for travelers is, barring any weapons or excluded items, travelers are permitted to the gates

In many ways the TSA reminds me of some of the privacy issues that are facing the digital media and advertising industry, when it comes to privacy.  For example, if consumers had a better understanding (transparency) of how advertisers were using cookies or tracking pixels to provide a better service (targeted ads), I believe it could improve the relationship for advertisers, consumers and tracking technology providers.  More importantly this transparency can lead to better self-regulation and ease potential over-regulation of Internet advertising by the FCC.  And perhaps this could even work in the EU – I’m an optimist at heart!

Since I’m in a position to make decisions about these sorts of things, as the head of digital marketing for a large CPG company (see my disclosure), I have embraced what the folks over at Evidon are doing.  Scott Meyer is leading an incredibly smart and passionate team at Evidon.  In fact, I have even downloaded their Ghostery product.  (The Ghostery icon reminds me of Blinky, that annoying ghost in Pac-Man that used to kill my Pac-Man!)  The difference is that this ghost tells me who and what is tracking me on each site I visit – it’s pretty cool.  And in the not to distant future the brands I work on will have this Advertising Option Icon on them.

The industry support for this program is great and growing.  Just look at who is on board already.  If you are an advertiser or a consumer, you should really check out this program of self-regulation.

It’s akin to what I hope will become a universal symbol for quality advertising online as well as complete transparency about data usage.  This online privacy and data usage space has a long way to go and with a great partnership from within the industry (see above), I truly believe consumers will embrace ad data sharing, cookies and the wonderful world of targeted advertising.  Who wants to see crap ads and ads from companies whose product or services for which they have no interest.

I will write a few more posts in the coming weeks about privacy, especially how to safeguard your individual privacy in the social graph – this will be especially good for a lot of college students that will soon be entering the working (professional) world, where showing pictures of keg stands won’t go over well with prospective employers.

As always, I would enjoy hearing your feedback.  Ping me at @dougchavez or feel free to post on this page.

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