Special Report: FTC puts trust in DeSanti’s hands

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Who: Susan DeSanti

What: Director of policy planning

Where: Antitrust/Competition Bureau, Federal Trade Commission


Susan DeSanti would be among the first to admit government is just beginning to understand the complexities of b-to-b. In her role as director of policy planning for the FTC’s Antitrust/Competition Bureau, she’s responsible for "keeping the commission ahead of the learning curve" when it comes to new business developments that may come under its purview. But she‘s quick to point out that it’s "virtually impossible because of how things are evolving so quickly today."

Recently, DeSanti has been looking at e-marketplaces and their potential for creating unfair advantages for the companies that run them. Last summer, the nine-year FTC veteran put together the commission’s first workshop on b-to-b e-marketplaces, which opened up a constructive dialogue between exchange executives and her bureau, she said. From that workshop, DeSanti produced the comprehensive report "Entering the 21st Century: Competition Policy in the World of B2B Electronic Marketplaces," which is posted on the FTC site.

DeSanti was impressed with what she learned. "I think b-to-b marketplaces hold a huge promise," she said. "But they are complicated to set up and make work. And some improvement is needed in the business models, all of which will take some time."

That said, there were some competition issues that concerned her. "Companies that run the exchanges might be tempted to exclude their rivals or collude to squeeze suppliers," DeSanti said. "Another concern is the transparency of the transaction data among exchange members. But these issues are nothing new; we’ve dealt with them before in joint ventures and other similar partnerships."

—Roger Slavens

Who: O. Burtch Drake What: President-CEO Where: American Association of Advertising Agencies Why: Drake leads an association known for its dynamic research. Primarily a consumer-oriented group, the AAAA has heightened its focus on b-to-b because many major agencies, most notably McCann-Erickson and Ogilvy & Mather, are taking on more clients in the space.

Who: Dennis Dunlap What: CEO Where: American Marketing Association Why: Expect a dramatic increase in the AMA’s b-to-b products and services in 2001. Association head Dunlap realizes how important the sector has become, and has planned a b-to-b channel for its enhanced Web site, as well as industry-specific b-to-b conferences and publications in the coming year.

Who: Orrin Hatch What: U.S. senator (R-Utah) Where: U.S. Congress Why: Hatch has been very vocal and visible on Internet privacy, and he’s especially concerned about companies sharing or selling customer databases. As the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hatch could also play an important role in potential e-commerce antitrust cases.

Who: Gordon Hughes What: President-CEO Where: American Business Media Why: Hughes labored aggressively to expand ABM’s membership last year. He succeeded, for the most part, by winning over many Web- related companies, which is directly reflected in the association’s name change. Despite the dot-com setback, look for Hughes to continue branding efforts in 2001.

Who: Rick Kean What: Executive director Where: Business Marketing Association Why: The BMA was founded as an educational resource for business marketers, and Kean knows there’s a lot of work to be done in keeping up with b-to-b trends and technologies. The association attracted more international members this year, meaning more offerings will have a global orientation.

Who: Rich LeFurgy What: Chairman Where: Internet Advertising Bureau Why: A longtime champion of Internet advertising, LeFurgy plays double duty, chairing the IAB while working for WaldenVC II Media L.L.C. And though IAB’s 300-some members enjoyed the Internet gold rush, they have their work cut out for them in 2001, as Net ad revenues have started to drop.

Who: John McCain What: U.S. senator (R-Arizona) Where: U.S. Congress Why: Not only has McCain weighed in on numerous issues affecting the b-to-b space as the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, but last year he also sponsored bipartisan legislation on Internet privacy. McCain should be an important force in 2001 on e-mail marketing and customer information protection.

Who: David Medine What: Associate director-financial practices Where: Federal Trade Commision’s Consumer Protection Bureau Why: Medine is the commision’s go-to guy on privacy and was integral in its investigation of Inc., which tried to sell customer information despite a privacy agreement. He’s currently working on a staff report on privacy matters.

Who: H. Robert Wientzen What: President-CEO Where: The Direct Marketing Association Why: Wientzen has emerged as the leading voice urging direct marketers to self-regulate on privacy issues before government does so for them. His role is crucial, as Draconian legislation could do as much to impede e-mail marketing’s growth as any lengthy recession.

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