Friday 16 March 2012

Cookies – Barclays wins a glittering prize

I’ve just been invited to a brilliant bash. It’s to celebrate the fact that one company, that banking behemoth Barclays, has apparently found a cunning way to comply with the new cookie rules. And their compliance method is so utterly, utterly brilliant that both Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner and Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will be delivering keynote speeches on this prestigious occasion.

Praise indeed.

To be absolutely honest, I would be more impressed if Barclays offered a better rate of return on their Loyalty Reward ISA, but I can’t have everything. Instead, I’ll make do with appreciating their cunning cookie compliance methodology.

I understand that data controllers who are not as fast off the mark as Barclays will have an opportunity to ask questions about the new cookie requirements at this event, and it will be really interesting to work out, from Ed Vaizey’s replies, just how high a priority he really sees cookie compliance. Other speakers will include our chums from the Internet Advertising Bureau and the International Chamber of Commerce. So it ought to be good.

Places are limited, so I hope you will forgive me if I don’t announce the details of the venue and when it will be held. But I will blog about it afterwards.

One of the reasons I want to attend is so that I can respond to journalists who are writing negative stories about all this cookie chaos. One article that very recently caught my eye shouted that “Online marketers really dislike Europe’s new digital privacy law”. Fancy that! Apparently, 82% of them think the European Union’s new cookie law is bad for the web, according to survey results released by the market research agency Econsultancy.

Econsultancy surveyed 739 marking professionals earlier this month via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter to learn their thoughts about the requirements, which the journalist claimed “takes effect this spring and generally requires web sites to ask for permission before placing a cookie on a consumer’s browser to track her behaviour. Those cookies can tell marketers where that consumer has come from and what she’s viewed and searched for—which in turn enables marketers to target web ads based on those behaviours, or tweak discount and merchandising tactics. The law doesn’t require permission for cookies that track items put into shopping carts or which remember a consumer’s shipping address.”

Reported comments from survey respondents pointed to lingering confusion about the law and scepticism that it will do any good. “There's total confusion on how to apply it and what it should be applied,” read one such comment from a survey participant. “There are a few nice implementations [but] nothing which everyone agrees on, which means a disjointed user experience from site to site.”

Other comments included: “There are still a number of grey areas and the legislation has obviously been put together by people that do not understand the workings of online marketing.” Someone else commented: “We just need to be sensible about how we interpret it and ensure that we turn this into positive legislation for the online industry.”

Somewhat reassuringly: “57% of respondents claimed to have actually read the EU privacy directive that requires consumers to opt in for most web tracking by retailers and marketers, and 54% report their employers have carried out a cookie audit in advance of the law’s May 26 deadline for compliance. Only 7% of respondents say they think that online consumers understand how cookies work.”

I was astonished to read that as many as 57% of respondents had actually read the thing. I would have thought it was more likely to have been 5-7%. I’m not at all surprised that so few respondents understand how cookies work. After all, I don’t know how the engine in my car works. All I need to know is where to put the key and who to call when I have a problem with it.

I do hope this great forthcoming bash will give me plenty of material to blog about. Actually, I’m so convinced it will that I’ve already accepted the 4pm speaking slot at the prestigious Marketing Week Live event at Olympia on 27 June to talk about it. But if the cunning plan from Barclays turns out to be a complete dud, then I’ll have to think swapping my 4pm speaking slot with that of the 4am presenter!