While 2014 may be dubbed “The Year of The Breach,” thanks to Sean Reyes, Attorney General, State of Utah, the 2015 ERA Government Affairs Fly-In may be remembered as “The Year of The Selfie.” This spontaneous “selfie” moment ensued after audience members gave the State AG a standing ovation for a highly entertaining and enlightening keynote presentation. However, this was merely a snippet of ERA’s content-rich event that featured top-level representatives from the FTC, renowned legal experts, along with members of the Washington elite.
What's on the Horizon?
The day began bright and early with opening remarks from ERA President and CEO Julie Coons, who thanked the audience for supporting the association’s self-regulation efforts by attending this year’s event.
She then welcomed speakers Jeff Knowles, partner, Venable LLP; Ed Glynn, partner, Locke Lord, LLP; Jonathan Gelfand, chief legal officer and SVP Business Development, Beachbody, LLC; and Marc Roth, partner, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP; who presented “The Future in 9 Minutes or Less.” During this hour-long session, panelists offered insight into the most disruptive forces on the horizon for the direct response marketing industry. What’s more, they explored how direct marketers can future-proof their business moving forward, and offered a peek into what tomorrow brings for everyone in the industry.
According to Gelfand, consumer engagement is critical for marketers. “What I’ve really noticed in my 15 years in direct response is [that] it’s a constantly shifting landscape,” he notes. Direct response is no longer a one-way medium so “right now, you really have to engage with your customers and not be passive,” he says. “This leads to some amazing blessings and this leads to some significant curses, especially around data and privacy.” Thus, if you’re not directly engaging customers and creating that dialogue, you won’t attract long-term customers.
Gelfand adds that the more you engage with them, the more you learn what they like, don’t like, and you learn what else you can do with them from a marketing perspective. “With that comes a lot of responsibility in how you treat that data,” he warns. “Always make sure you’re actively communicating and really soliciting permission.”
Looking at the Fine Print
The second session entitled “Disclosure of Key Details: Fine Print Revisited” was moderated by Amy Mudge, partner, Venable LLP. Mudge was joined by Lee Peeler, president and CEO of ARSC and EVP, National Advertising, CBBB; Jennifer McCabe, executive vice president, general counsel, Euro-Pro; and Rich Cleland, assistant director, Advertising Practices, Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The panel addressed the fact that more State Attorneys General and federal regulators are reviewing direct response business practices, and shared valuable disclosure compliance dos and don’ts from such case studies as DirecTV and Dyson.
“Ask yourself—if a regular consumer saw this, what percentage of them would take away the message of the advertisement? If it’s less than 25 percent, you’re in trouble,” says Cleland, referring to one of the advertising campaigns.
A Digital Discussion
These days, online security breaches continue to be a hot-button issue for the industry. In fact, the session “Digital DC – Cyber Security Reforms” took a closer look at this ever-growing problem. Presented by former U.S. Senator Mark L. Pryor, Venable LLP, and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Technology Policy and founder of Mehlman, Castagnetti, Rosen, Bingel & Thomas, this session tackled topics ranging from data breach to information sharing to surveillance reform, cyber security, and how such cyber security proposals have taken on a life of their own in Congress.
“Data breaches are on the front page so frequently—we’re one big breach away from this being an issue in the  presidential race,” says former Senator Pryor.
The "Digital DC" session was followed by the keynote luncheon presentation by Sean Reyes, Attorney General, State of Utah, who not only entertained the crowd, but also managed to shed light on how direct response marketers can better understand their State Attorneys General and vice versa, create an open dialogue, and how they can work cooperatively with the AG to achieve a common goal.
“I think self-regulation is critical,” says Reyes. “I want government to stay slim, stay efficient, and I think government’s true purpose is to stay out of your business to create a strong business environment.” He does point out, however, that if you are bad actors and you blatantly and knowingly violate the rules, he will come down extremely hard on you.
After the keynote, attendees separated into various teams and proceeded to Capitol Hill where they met with their representatives from the House and Senate to discuss legislative issues like Operation Choke Point and Data Security that are most critical to our industry.
Data Security and Breach Notification
Immediately following the team meetings was a special presentation with Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who discussed H.R. 1770, The Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015, legislation she and Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) introduced this year, and provided an update on the bill’s status.
“Consumers continue to tell us that they want some kind of assurance…that is going to say, ‘Okay, as long as you play by these rules and handle these practices, you’ve got a relative measure of assurance that [our] presence online is going to be safe,” says Rep. Blackburn. “We have encouraged many of our brick-and-mortar retailers who also have a click business to participate in educating consumers on how best to work through their system, how to set their security settings, how to make their selection, and we think that’s just good business.”
The Government Affairs Fly-In ended on a high note with a closing Happy Hour at Hawk ‘n’ Dove, where attendees gathered one last time to mix and mingle before heading home.
Thank you to ERA's generous Gold-Level sponsors Beachbody, LLC, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, and Venable LLP; as well as our Silver-Level sponsors Argo Marketing Group, Evtech Media, Invitus Law, Locke Lord LLP, and the Merchant Acquirers’ Committee (MAC).