The chief marketing officers of Procter & Gamble, Walmart, Ford, Verizon, Coca Cola, Unilever, General Electric, American Express, Kraft and 30 other companies signed a letter to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, complaining about the "do not track" (DNT) function planned for Internet Explorer 10.
IE10 will launch with a default DNT position, preventing consumers from being targeted by advertisers. The letter was timed to rain on Microsoft’s parade at Advertising Week, at which it launched new native ad products for Windows 8 and a redesigned MSN.
It is rare for advertisers to publicly criticize the media sellers they deal with. It’s rarer still for them to time their criticism to inflict maximum PR damage. And it’s rarest of all for them to band together — even with competitors — and sign a statement against a marketing partner that takes billions of their dollars.
The letter is thus the most humiliating form of public dressing-down Microsoft could have received from its clients.
I really hate to break it to the Web advertising bigwigs, but Microsoft is on the side of the angels on this one. The only thing more annoying than ads following me from site to site are the constant requests that I "like" some company or product on Facebook. Those that feel lonely without be tracked by ravenous Web marketers can always opt-in, just like with email advertising or Facebook. Very few consumers will do that, of course, which is why the big Web advertisers are having the vapors. Don’t worry guys, you can always besiege us with admonitions to "please let us track you" just like you do with Facebook.
(First version lightly edited.)