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ICO reforms may put the brakes on direct marketing campaigns

20/09/2013

Marketers will no doubt be sick of hearing about how they should be using big data to hone their promotional campaigns.

Companies amass huge amounts of information from customers during an average day and this can be used to put together targeted marketing messages that people will actually want to read.

For too long, brands have been sending out generic content to everyone in their contacts book, without considering who is on the receiving end of their phone calls, emails or letters.

Whereas in the past targets were deleting their emails before they had barely read the subject title, now they are clicking through to messages that are designed to grab their attention.

However, new guidance released by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) could put the brakes on targeted email campaigns just as brands are starting to build up some momentum.

According to the ICO, marketers need to obtain "extremely clear and specific consent" from customers before sending out direct marketing material.

In essence, just because someone has given a firm permission to contact them via email, this does not mean they have free rein to bombard them with telephone calls or text messages.

The guidance urged marketers to use "opt-in" boxes where possible and stated that organisations shouldn't take a "one-size-fits-all approach" to gaining consent.

Just to reinforce the message, the regulatory body warned: "The ICO will consider using its enforcement powers, including the power to issue a fine of up to £500,000, where an organisation persistently ignores individuals' objections to marketing or otherwise fails to comply with the law."

With many businesses having little choice but to tighten their marketing budgets, the last thing they need is to incur the wrath of the ICO.

The organisation has certainly been on high alert since new cookies laws were introduced at EU level in 2011. As such, it is vital that senior figures make sure all of their marketers are using data appropriately and not targeting people who have not explicitly given them permission to do so.