Is “Do Not Track” the Beginning of the End for Marketing?

The use of tracking for internet advertisements has been a longstanding practice, and it’s one that many consumers may not have been aware of until now. With the news about “Do Not Track” legislation making its way into the media, many advertisers and marketers fear that if this becomes law, users will universally opt-out of tracking.

One article in particular over on Website Magazine offers a tentative solution when it comes to these types of issues which I think is worth a look. In particular, this comment stands out to me:

To start, businesses can educate consumers about information collection, including the fact that this information is often innocuous — such as approximate geographic location or past browsing behavior, which can provide an excellent level of targeting. Every website can provide clearly labeled privacy policies and terms of use that can explain exactly what information is being collected from each user to help put them at ease and avoid the website being blocked completely.

Every business should have a privacy policy in place — that’s just good business. However, the vast majority of website visitors are probably not going to spend the 20 or 30 minutes it takes to read the entire document. This is one of the reasons why I advocate having a “plain-speak” version of the privacy policy displayed at the top of the official policy.

This helps for two reasons:

  1. It gives privacy-conscious consumers a quick overview of your policies to reassure them.
  2. It helps anyone who may not understand the general legalese to know exactly where you stand on privacy issues.

Another point that the article doesn’t mention is the current technology that is available to users who don’t want to see ads at all — ad blocking extensions and add-ons are some of the most popular downloads on any browser, and often come up when doing a search for “suggested add-ons”.

This indicates that many people do not want to be exposed to ads online unless they are in the shopping mindset. While one can’t discount impulse purchases, most users online do some level of research before they buy, especially if the product is expensive.

So while I don’t think “Do Not Track”  is the end of marketing and advertising online, I do think that it marks the beginning of a new era online. With younger generations being far more web-savvy than their parents, having permission to market may make the difference in a successful campaign.

People who write sales-based content, whether it’s sales letters, emails, landing pages, or online ads should take note of the new legislation and be prepared to reassure their customers accordingly now, rather than waiting to react.