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Lead-Generation Winds Through Privacy Issues

With Segment Growing at a Rapid Clip, IAB Tries to Establish Some Ground Rules

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The fast-growing field of lead generation has attracted advertisers, new entrants and, occasionally, rogue players. That's why the Interactive Advertising Bureau crafted a list of best practices. Gayle Guzzardo, senior VP at Q Interactive, led the charge and took time to talk to Ad Age's William Hupp about how to use lead generation and other key issues.
Gayle Guzzardo, senior VP at Q Interactive
Gayle Guzzardo, senior VP at Q Interactive

Advertising Age: For those not familiar, what is lead generation?

Gayle Guzzardo: Online lead generation is basically when a consumer fills out a contact form and gives explicit permission for an advertiser to have their personal information. ... It's hosted by an advertiser, who typically gives the consumer something for free in exchange.

Ad Age: What kind of marketers can benefit from the tactic from both a business-to-consumer marketer and B-to-B marketer standpoint?

Ms. Guzzardo: We work with many different industries ... Companies often are looking to build their consumer relationship management database. They want consumers who are interested in their product or service ... to provide their e-mail address to them, and then [begin] communication.

Ad Age: If a marketer wants to start a lead-generation campaign, what would be the first steps?

Ms. Guzzardo: Every good provider should provide creative optimization services so that when the campaign goes live, they can continually optimize the creative to improve performance. They should also be able to employ pretty robust validation, data validation and verification services so that the data are valid in the lead form.

Ad Age: What kinds of questions should marketers be asking when they decide to work with a lead-gen company?

Ms. Guzzardo: I'd ask, "Do you provide creative-optimization services? ... how long have they been doing lead generation?" And try to [learn what] their reputation is in the industry. ... [You should ensure] their key tenets are permission and privacy of consumer data and ask questions such as: "Do you provide advanced targeting and modeling services?"

Ad Age: How would an advertiser want to structure its metrics around lead generation?

Ms. Guzzardo: They need to evaluate what a customer is worth to them. Companies that just are interested in communicating with the consumer over e-mail are probably willing to pay a little less for that lead compared with an education or a financial services provider, where if a consumer actually converts on that lead, it could be worth thousands of dollars to them. It's important to understand the lifetime value of the consumer. If they're asking for an e-mail address, they should have a mechanism to immediately act upon those leads while they're hot. Likewise, if they're asking for a phone number, those phone numbers should be sent in real time to a call center so they can immediately follow up with them.

Ad Age: Your IAB guidelines emphasize the importance of consumer trust in lead-gen tactics. Why is this important? Has trust been violated in the past?

Ms. Guzzardo: Online lead generation has been the fastest-growing advertising vehicle in terms of spending for the past two years running, and because of the rapid growth in the industry, many new players entered the marketplace, and the practices among them were inconsistent. In addition, online lead generation involves the collection and sharing of consumers' personally identifiable information [so] it's imperative that we proceed with the utmost of precautions. ... We need to ensure that we have trust and confidence among all the players in the lead-generation ecosystem -- the publisher, the advertiser and the consumer.

Ad Age: With all the offers for free gifts and other seemingly too-good-to-be-true lead-gen services out there, how does the consumer make sure he's dealing with a legitimate lead-gen company?

Ms. Guzzardo: There should be disclosures directly at the point of sign-up ... I think in the past, deceptive creative has been one of the issues in the industry. Consumers are signing up for websites or selecting lead-generation offers and aren't really understanding what they're opting in for, how their data will be used and if it will be shared [with third-party marketers].

It is not enough to just have a link to a privacy policy or terms and conditions and bury those details in there. It must be directly on the form. In addition, when some of those highly promotional sites do offer something for free, like a free gift -- it could even be a free newsletter, a free coupon or a sweepstakes entry -- they must have full disclosure on the page that the requirements of getting something for free must be in a different font and color.

Ad Age: What happens to bad actors? Is there a self-regulatory body?

Ms. Guzzardo: Yes, I think the IAB is. We've been a real leader in the online lead-generation space. We've come out with a series of documents .... with the purpose of educating the industry, the advertisers, publishers and agencies on the best practices. And what to look for when working with a provider. We hope to self-regulate ourselves through education so that other government agencies don't have to get involved in our space.
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