25th Anniversary Issue: Timeline: 1999-04

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1999


JANUARY-APRIL:
Online retailers say holiday sales for 1998 were up 230 percent from 1997, or more than triple, according to shop.org and Boston Consulting Group. ... Marketing Services Group Inc. acquires Steven-Knox & Associates. ... A U.S. district judge rules that a preliminary injunction be placed against the government's enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act pending a trial on the act's constitutionality. ... Federated Department Stores will become the No. 2 player in the direct mail catalog channel through its acquisition of Fingerhut. ... Virginia passes legislation making it a crime to send mass unsolicited e-mail. The bill is the first by any state covering both civil and criminal penalties for spamming. ... Sweepstakes marketers tell disbelieving senators in a hearing that most Americans understand they don't have to order anything to enter and win marketers' contests. ... DM News debuts iMarketing News, a stand-alone publication.


MAY-AUGUST: A study on Internet privacy shows that most Web sites post some kind of online privacy statement regarding their use of consumers' personal information. ... The FTC releases results from an international survey that finds most Web sites don't provide refund policies, cancellation terms and warranty information for consumers. ... At the New Media Summit, panelists from Internet companies declare that privacy is dead. "You already have no privacy. Get over it," says GeoCities president-CEO Thomas Evans. ... The DMA formally announces its Privacy Promise program after two years of prodding members toward compliance. ... Quebecor Printing agrees to a $2.7 billion acquisition of World Color Press. ... Ad legend David Ogilvy dies at age 88. ... Tad Clarke is promoted to editor in chief of DM News.


SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: A House-Senate conference committee approves the Senate Transportation Appropriations bill with an amendment that makes the 1994 Driver's Privacy Protection Act opt in instead of opt out. ... Mismanagement by the American Teleservices Association's short-lived president/CEO J. Scott Thornton sparks a legal investigation and a new system of internal oversight. ... A "60 Minutes" news crew tapes footage for a piece on consumer privacy at the DMA's fall conference in Toronto. ... American Family Enterprises files for Chapter 11 to restructure and resolve several dozen class-action lawsuits against it alleging deceptive advertising in its sweepstakes. ... President Clinton signs the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act just three days after American Family Enterprises announces preliminary approval of a $33 million settlement of lawsuits regarding sweepstakes. ... Kmart Corp. teams with Yahoo to offer free Internet access and a shopping Web site. ... Call centers get ready to handle a surge in call volume as a result of Y2K. ... DM News launches DMNews Daily, a daily e-mail newsletter.


2000


JANUARY-APRIL:
Saks Fifth Avenue plans to launch an e-commerce site in June. ... Time Consumer Marketing forms Time Direct Ventures to offer partnership marketing programs to Time's titles and outside publications. ... David Florence and 10-20 company employees agree to buy back Direct Media from Acxiom Corp. ... Equifax agrees to buy the Consumer Information Services division of R.L. Polk Co. for $260 million. ... New York, Michigan and the FTC hit DoubleClick over its database profiling initiative undertaken with Abacus Direct Corp. ... Wunderman Cato Johnson changes its name to Impiric to redefine the agency's marketing service focus and overall image. ... DoubleClick promises not to link consumers' personal information with data regarding their online clicking behavior until an agreement on privacy standards is reached. ... A Boston Consulting Group study claims 28 percent of online shopping tries fail. ... Time Inc. suspends publication of Life magazine, a victim of the collapsing sweepstakes business. ... The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act takes effect, extending certain legal protections to children under 13.


MAY-AUGUST: Utah halts the sale of motor vehicle lists, becoming the first state to do so since the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the amended Driver's Privacy Protection Act in January. ... The DMA creates an affiliated entity with the acquisition of the National Federation of Nonprofits. The new affiliation, the Nonprofit Federation of the DMA, adds 250 nonprofit members to the DMA and makes nonprofits the DMA's largest special-interest group. ... A day after the FTC files a lawsuit against online retailer Toysmart to block the sale of its customer database, The Walt Disney Co. - Toysmart's majority owner - offers to purchase and discontinue the file. ... Yesmail and anti-spam advocate Mail Abuse Prevention System sign a "memorandum of understanding" that lifts a temporary restraining order against MAPS over being placed on its Realtime Blackhole List. ... Harris Interactive suffers an early defeat in its lawsuit against MAPS and various ISPs as a federal judge denies its request for a temporary restraining order against the anti-spam watchdog. ... Publishers Clearing House will pay $18.4 million in fines and restitution to settle lawsuits by 24 states and the District of Columbia.


SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: Veteran direct marketer and educator Nat Ross dies at age 96. ... New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer announces a settlement with telemarketer MemberWorks that will protect consumers from unauthorized credit card charges and require full, clear, upfront disclosures in sales representations. ... Digital Convergence rolls out an infomercial campaign to launch its Cue Cat product, which reads UPC symbols in ads or text and sends a person's Web browser to the appropriate Web page. ... After two years of negotiations, the safe harbor data privacy protection agreement between the United States and Europe takes effect. ... TeleQuest founder Gordon McKenna, who became president of the American Teleservices Association in 1999 after the previous ATA head was accused of mismanaging funds, is accused of mismanaging his own business.


2001


JANUARY-APRIL:
Montgomery Ward closes its 250 stores and 10 distribution centers. Its demise surprises few analysts, who say the company could not compete with the niches established by newer stores. ... Gordon McKenna resigns as American Teleservices Association chairman. ... Job cuts at AOL Time Warner include closing the Time Life Books direct marketing division. ... The USPS' Board of Governors requests another rate increase on top of the one implemented in January. ... A 6.8-magnitude earthquake hits Seattle during the DMA's net.marketing conference, bringing an early end to the lightly attended show. ... Copywriter Frank H. Johnson, credited for the "Johnson box," dies at age 88. ... J.C. Penney sells its DM services to Dutch insurer Aegon NV for $1.3 billion. ... Reader's Digest will pay $8 million and revamp its mail sweepstakes disclosures in a settlement with 32 states and the District of Columbia. ... Interpublic Group of Companies will buy True North Communications for $2.1 billion. ... Lawmakers and mailers criticize the USPS for exploring the possibility of reducing mail delivery to five days a week. ... The Postal Rate Commission rejects the USPS Board of Governors' request to raise rates.


MAY-AUGUST: Germany and the United States are at odds over neo-Nazi Web sites based in the United States but accessible from Germany. The sites are illegal in Germany but have First Amendment protection in the United States. ... The USPS Board of Governors overturns a Postal Rate Commission decision and says it will raise rates again in July. ... John E. Potter becomes postmaster general. ... Online travel seller Orbitz launches with $1 million in ticket sales. ... Shopping network HSN expands into mail order with the $33.4 million acquisition of Hanover Direct. ... Abercrombie & Fitch says it has no plans to change its racy A&F Quarterly magalog after Illinois' lieutenant governor calls for a boycott of the retailer. ... Blaming federal and consumer backlash against sweepstakes marketing, Foster & Gallagher files for Chapter 11. ... Internet marketing firm Impower files for Chapter 11, two years after American List Counsel spun it off with hopes to take it public.


SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: The 9/11 terrorist attacks spur DM industry response, including the American Teleservices Association organizing call centers to raise money for the American Red Cross and Amazon and Yahoo soliciting donations online. ... Already hard-hit list firms prepare for plunging orders following the terrorist attacks. ... Fear of flying has several marketers reassessing plans to attend the DMA's fall conference in Chicago. DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen sends e-mails urging companies to attend, one offering free airfare or Amtrak tickets. ... Mailers and ad agencies say they still will mail despite the anthrax scare. ... The USPS says it needs another $1.1 billion for mail sanitization and security equipment in addition to the $175 million allocated by President Bush. ... Inflated salaries in the Internet and DM industry have resulted in layoffs and a consensus that salaries will decrease for new hires, a study says.


2002


JANUARY-APRIL:
The 9/11 terrorist attacks, anthrax mailings and a sluggish economy contribute to a decline in mail volume in the USPS' first quarter. ... The odd marriage between Federated Department Stores and Fingerhut, with customers at opposite ends of the shopping spectrum, ends after Federated decides to close the namesake Fingerhut title unless a buyer is found immediately. ... Though the FTC's case against Access Resource Services and its Miss Cleo Psychic Readers Network is far from resolved, DRTV marketers question the role of celebrity endorsements. ... A federal judge rules that the government's ban on unsolicited fax ads is unconstitutional.


MAY-AUGUST: The Association for Interactive Marketing, a DMA subsidiary, prepares to release a document outlining best practices for e-mail appending, in which opt-in e-mail lists are matched with lists of postal addresses. ... Sears buys Lands' End for $1.9 billion. ... Federated Department Stores signs a letter of intent to sell some of its Fingerhut assets to wholesaler Tom Petters and ex-Fingerhut CEO Ted Deikel. ... A fire strikes a 2 million-square-foot automated storage building at a Quad/Graphics printing plant in Lomira, WI, resulting in the death of a building maintenance contractor employee as well as the destruction of 30,000 pallets of paper. ... Tragedy strikes Quad/Graphics again after founder Harry V. Quadracci is found dead in 4 1/2 feet of water near a pier outside his home. The death is ruled an accidental drowning. ... With the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaching, mailers say they won't alter their mail plans. But some telemarketers will stop outbound calling on the day of the anniversary.


SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: The FTC releases a solicitation for price quotes outlining technical requirements for database companies proposing to maintain the national no-call list. ... Rosie O'Donnell and Gruner+Jahr USA Publishing fold Rosie magazine after a dispute over editorial control. ... The DMA's tax return for fiscal 2001 shows that it operated at a loss of $1.7 million and lost more than $1.9 million on its investments. ... E-mail marketing volume, frequency and response experienced greater increases than postal mail in 2001, a DMA report finds. ... Federated Department Stores sells its Arizona Mail Order and Figi's catalogs to JPMorgan Partners LLC. ... The Psychic Readers Network, famed for late-night DRTV ads featuring Miss Cleo, agrees to forgive $500 million in outstanding bills and stop using toll-call numbers, the FTC says. ... MKTG Services will sell its DM operations to privately held CBC Companies for $11 million, plus related liabilities. ... President Bush creates an independent commission to develop solutions to the USPS' fiscal difficulties.


2003


JANUARY-APRIL:
Moore Corp. Ltd. pays $1.3 billion to merge with rival Wallace Computer Services. ... The DMA and American Teleservices Association file separate lawsuits challenging the national no-call registry on constitutional grounds. ... The imminent invasion of Iraq causes concern for list companies and the USPS, but e-commerce players expect a boost. ... The U.S. Supreme Court rules that Cathy's Little Secret, a small Kentucky store selling lingerie and adult-themed items, did not hurt the trademark of Victoria's Secret. ... Spiegel Inc. files for Chapter 11. ... A move to make the Direct Marketing Club of New York a chapter of the DMA faces obstacles after a controversial vote marred by a miscount. ... The DMA runs a $3 million loss in fiscal 2002 after a tough year for its meetings and conferences department. ... As part of a global restructuring, the Reader's Digest Association eliminates sweepstakes promotions for its flagship magazine.


MAY-AUGUST: E-tailing is no longer in the red. Forrester Research finds that 70 percent of the 130-odd retailers surveyed have positive operating margins for their online arms, compared with 56 percent in 2001. Overall, the retailers claim online sales reached break-even in 2003, from a 6 percent loss in 2001. ... Marketers put on a happy face as the DMD New York Conference goes head to head with the Annual Catalog Conference 3,000 miles away in San Francisco, though many are displeased with attendance at either show. It is the second time in five years that the show have conflicted. ... Consumers enter 16.9 million phone numbers to the national no-call list in its first week. ... The FCC grants a 16-month delay in the enactment of new fax solicitation rules.


SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: Syndicated columnist Dave Barry's article on telemarketers may have been in jest, but it's no laughing matter to the American Teleservices Association, which blames the article for jamming its toll-free number. ... Another court ruling - and another reversal of fortune - means that the national no-call list will be operating in a matter of weeks, after an appeals court allows the government to launch the list while it decides whether the list violates free speech. ... Covering the DMA's fall conference, the Orlando Sentinel references showgoers as "spammers" in a headline and calls the show a "war council, where they gather to plan better ways to separate you from your money." ... With California's strict anti-spam bill looming, e-mail marketers are relieved as Congress passes legislation that will override state laws. ... Unable to find a buyer or boost its holiday sales, FAO Inc. files for Chapter 11. ... The USPS finishes its 2003 fiscal year with a $3.9 billion surplus and renews its pledge to keep rates steady until 2006. ... Abercrombie & Fitch says it's "time for new thinking" and kills its controversial A&F Quarterly magalog.


2004


JANUARY-APRIL:
A week after the CAN-SPAM Act takes effect, anti-spam companies and Internet service providers report little change in the amount of spam intercepted. ... Spiegel relaunches its women's apparel and home furnishings catalog in a last-ditch effort to turn the company around. ... The American Teleservices Association says it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the federal appeals court decision upholding the constitutionality of the no-call registry. Meanwhile, the DMA says it will accept the decision and work for changes in other ways. ... Spiegel Group's breakup begins as the company says it is in a deal to sell its Newport News division and is seeking a buyer for Eddie Bauer. ... Increasing revenue helped cut the DMA's deficit, yet it operated at a loss in fiscal 2002-03 for the third consecutive year, according to a review of its most recent tax return.


MAY-AUGUST: The effect on the DM operations of Marshall Field's remains unclear after Target Corp. says it will sell the chain to May Department Stores Co. for $3.24 billion. ... The DMA decides to return its fall show to Orlando, FL, in 2007 thanks to the Orange County government's $199,544.47 offer to soothe complaints about negative news coverage. ... The DMA's newly named president/CEO, John A. Greco Jr., promises that no segment of the industry will be left behind during his tenure. ... Another division of Spiegel comes under control of the same group that took over Newport News. ... The postal reform bill fails to move in the House and Senate, leaving mailers to fret that time is running out to head off a double-digit rate case. ... Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. says it will discontinue its catalog by year's end because of its namesake founder's legal problems.


- This timeline was compiled by Mickey Alam Khan, Kristen Bremner, Melissa Campanelli, Tad Clarke, John Ervin, Scott Hovanyetz, Glenn J. Kalinoski, Brian Morrissey, Patrick Patullo, Chantal Todé and Boyd Wareham.


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