December 16, 2017

About Mark Hass

Mark Hass, a 2016-2017 CITP affiliate, is a professor of practice at Arizona State University’s communications and business schools. In addition to teaching, he is currently researching and writing about the privacy implications of data-driven marketing strategies. He is a former senior marketing executive, having worked as U.S. CEO of Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, and the global CEO of MS&L, a top-ten PR firm that is part of the French marketing conglomerate, Publicis Groupe. Earlier in his career, he was an entrepreneur, having launched and sold two digital marketing firms, and a journalist, having worked as an editor and reporter at The Miami Herald and The Detroit News.

The AT&T Deal Is About the Data

Most of the mainstream media coverage of the proposed AT&T acquisition of Time Warner has missed an important risk. Much of the discussion has focused on the potential market power the combined entity would have to raise prices, limit choice or otherwise disadvantage consumers.

A primary motivation for the deal, however, as readers of Freedom to Tinker well understand, is the desire to access more and deeper data about consumer behavior. The motivation to combine companies is not monopolistic control, but rather a timely effort to become a player in the lucrative, $77 billion world of targeted digital advertising, now controlled by Google and Facebook.

Some media, especially those covering the FCC and FTC, have begun detailing the data privacy issues raised by the deal. Hopefully, mainstream media will soon follow suit.

Here are some links:

BNA: FCC Privacy Rules Could Hamper AT&T-Time Warner Data Mining

Inside Sources: Mega Mergers Like AT&T-Time Warner are Becoming a Problem for Privacy Regulation

Bloomberg: Privacy Rule Imperils Data Riches as AT&T Pursues Time Warner

Fortune: Media Companies Want U.S. to Force AT&T-Time Warner to Share Customer Data

Is Tesla Motors a Hidden Warrior for Consumer Digital Privacy?

Amid the privacy intrusions of modern digital life, few are as ubiquitous and alarming as those perpetrated by marketers. The economics of the entire industry are built on tools that exist in shadowy corners of the Internet and lurk about while we engage with information, products and even friends online, harvesting our data everywhere our mobile phones and browsers dare to go.

This digital marketing model, developed three decades ago and premised on the idea that it’s OK for third parties to gather our private data and use it in whatever way suits them, will grow into a $77 billion industry in the U.S. this year, up from $57 billion in 2014, according to Forrester Research.

Storm clouds are developing around the industry, however, and there are new questions being raised about the long-term viability of surreptitious data-gathering as a sustainable business model. Two factors are typically cited: Regulators in Europe have begun, and those in the U.S. are poised to begin, reining in the most intrusive of these marketing practices; and the growth of the mobile Internet, and the related reliance on apps rather than browsers for 85% of our mobile online activity, have made it more difficult to gather user data.

Then there is Tesla Motors and its advertising-averse marketing model, which does not use third-party data to raise awareness and interest in its brand, drive desire for its products or spur action by its customers. Instead, the electric carmaker relies on cultural branding, a concept popularized recently by Douglas Holt, formerly of the Harvard Business School, to do much of the marketing heavy lift that brought it to the top of the electric vehicle market. And while Tesla is not the only brand engaging digital crowd culture and shunning third-party data-gathering, its success is causing the most consternation within the ranks of intrusion marketers.

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