Belgian DMA in Image-Building Drive

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BRUSSELS - ABMD, the Belgian DMA, launched a campaign this spring to boost direct marketing's image and charisma with business and consumers through a series of targeted ads in professional and general magazines.

"We had a lot going for us," ABDM managing director Paul Van Lil recalled about the origins of the campaign. "We do lobbying. We have a code of ethics, a supervisory committee and a Robinson (opt-out) list. But we lacked charisma."

A label that members affixed to their catalogs and other public ventures wasn't enough. Belgian consumers just don't know much about direct marketing.

"People don't even know they have seven days after they make a purchase using distance selling to make up their minds about whether to keep an item or not," Van Lil said. "We needed to lay out what direct marketing is really all about."

When consumers think about direct marketing, he explained, they think of distance selling and direct mail. But direct marketing is about much more than that and "we want to prove that our members are professionals who merit respect and consumer confidence."

This isn't the first time, he noted, that a European DMA has felt compelled to push its image in public. "The British DMA did the same thing several years ago," he said. "We followed their lead in principle but not in execution.

"We had some reservations about their approach, It featured an eye - done in black and white - with the DMA's logo inside and a text that said, 'We keep an eye on you.'

"We thought that was negative and aggressive, and we wanted to avoid any defensive attitude but to make consumers think positively about what direct marketing can do for them.

"Direct marketing can be a delicate matter for consumers. After all one-to-one marketing attempts to obtain information by penetrating consumers' private lives and you need to build confidence in what you do. Companies must be worthy of such confidence."

That attitude informed the ads ABMD began running this spring. Next to the logo the ad ran this text: "I am the one who commands."

The sentence has a double meaning, Van Lil said, "I pass judgment on the product," for one, and "I decide what to buy" for another

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