Clear Communications insists that use of a new set of “e-marketing tools” it will be providing to its client advertisers is within the bounds of the Privacy Act and the guidelines of advertising and marketing standards organisations.
The demographic analysis and email marketing tools will allow Clear’s client advertisers to better reach its Zfree and ClearNet customers with promotional emails and advertising material in emailed newsletters, the company says.
It says the tools are consistent with the guidelines of the Direct Marketing Association, Advertising Standards Authority and their new joint Electronic Marketing Standards Association (eMSA.)
Clear’s e-marketing sales manager, Phil Newman, says Zfree and ClearNet customers will be treated differently. “An analogy is the difference between free-to-air and pay TV.” It was always a premise of Zfree, he says, that in return for free internet access, users consented to receive promotional material from third parties who had a business arrangement with Clear.
This will continue, and there may be an increased volume of such promotion overall with the aid of the new tools, Newman says. But at the same time, analysis of personal information provided at sign-up and data collected during internet activity – websites and pages visited and times logged on – will enable advertising to be better targeted to those with a specific interest.
Because of the Zfree agreement, those users have already “opted in” to marketing campaigns, and the emails are not “unsolicited” in terms of the DMA/ eMSA code of practice, he says.
The code says unsolicited commercial email is “a poor business practice,” even when the recipient is given the opportunity to “opt out” of receiving further emails. A conscious “opting-in” is acceptable, says the DMA.
Expanded promotion on Zfree is “an important component of our business case” in exploring whether Zfree can be opened up to new users again, Newman says (see Zfree to be reborn?). Zfree was closed to new subscribers at the end of last year, when new interconnection agreements with Telecom removed a good deal of revenue from the business.
ClearNet customers will be treated more sensitively. Newman says they will receive Clear’s regular newsletters containing promotional material, as they always have; but, he acknowledges, they may now contain more such material. The newsletter distribution qualifies as part of an existing business relationship between Clear and its customer, he says. There is an exemption for material relating to such relationships in the DMA/eMSA code.
The permissible newsletter is combined with a promotion by third parties who have no existing relationship with the customer, Newman agrees; “but our newsletters have always contained advertising.”
Clear’s current privacy statement advises users that personal data will be collected from sign-up forms and user internet activity, but Clear is drafting a new privacy statement and new terms and conditions to include the new e-marketing exercise, he says.
The information gathered will be collated with publicly available demographic data from the census.
Nothing identifying an individual and his/her characteristics will be released to clients, says Newman; they will get only aggregated data – though obviously Clear will use individual user records to send out emails to members of appropriate interest groups.
Information on web-surfing activities will not include reference to visits to any sex-related sites, he adds. “We’ll strip that out; we’re not interested in it.”
ClearNet customers will also, in due course, receive an emailed “opt-in” form, where they can check boxes to register interest in receiving email promotions on particular topics.
All ClearNet and Zfree users were “proactively told by emails” about the new arrangements, on or about June 12 he says.
To date less than 0.005% of customers have raised any questions or objections.
Clear has already had interest from a number of potential clients for the new services, notably in the travel and insurance industries, Newman says.