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Home Blogs Diary 2011 06

How to best hide an opt-out box

16th June 2011

A company called 'Opt-4' has done a study to find out how much revenue the marketing industry is losing as a result of data protection legislation [ Link to removed as the website no longer exists, JB ]. As you may know, the Data Protection Act gives you the right to stop or prevent personally addressed junk mail, and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations give you some rights when it comes to preventing junk calls, faxes and e-mails. Opt-4 specialises in giving advice to marketeers on how to comply with these pieces of legislation in the most minimal way possible (h Hence the assumption that data protection legislation is costing the industry money. It's worth noting that the official line within the industry is that the bad old days of 'carpet bombing' and 'cold-calling' are over. The Direct Marketing Association et al would like you to believe it's supporting your right to receive the mail you want! (the slogan of its Mailing Preference Service).

The survey is rather boring. As you'd expect, the bottom line is that companies ought to hire Opt-4's consultants to learn how to comply with the letter – but not the spirit – of current legislation. What is interesting is that the (not publicly available) powerpoint presentation Opt-4 has produced also contains some examples of the sort of advice its consultants give marketeers…

Staff training is a big issue, according to Opt-4. Employees talking to customers face-to-face or over the phone have a tendency to just tick all opt-out boxes. This is wrong; staff should attempt to try different channels. So, next time you book your holiday you may find that you're asked if you perhaps want to receive mailings, and if your answer is 'no' you might be asked if you maybe want to be phoned occasionally. Or maybe you want to make friends with your travel agency on Facebook, or become a fan? And what about following them on Twitter? Staff are not to make the assumption that 'no' means 'no'.

Also interesting; to discourage people from ticking opt-out boxes marketeers are advised to try use wording such as 'are you happy to receive our discount offers' and to avoid the word 'marketing'. Marketeers avoiding the word 'marketing' – it's a proud profession indeed.

Or what about this one… Marketeers are told that preventing people from opting out is most difficult on the web because the boxes are less hidden. This is nothing less than an admission that marketeers see it as their job to hide opt-out boxes so that people unintentionally give them permission to do with their personal details as they please. Junk mailers may dread data protection legislation, it exists for a reason; to protect people from deceiving characters who make a living out of abusing people's personal details.

As for the revenue lost because of data protection legislation… the research doesn't actually measure this. Nor does it tell us how many people opt out, or opt in unwittingly. You didn't think this was anything but genuine junk research, did you?

Last updated: 
16th June 2011