Choice, Responsibility addressed in DMA Keynote

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Monday morning's opening remarks at the DMA 07 Conference & Exhibition focused on responsibility and choice.

Outgoing DMA chair Markus Wilhelm addressed the crowd with a summary of the DMA's actions over the past year. He spoke mainly of direct marketers' ongoing battle with postal regulations.

"Postal regulatory commissioners hit us with a rate case that was too high overall and a real burden," Wilhelm said. "It was an example of why we needed postal reform so badly in the first place."

Wilhelm went on to note the seriousness of the threat to the entire mail stream.

"The ædo-not-mail' threat dominated the agenda last year," he added. "In the future, we can't just be defensive about it - we will have to be very proactive, but make sure we leave no segment and no company behind."

John Greco, president and CEO of the DMA, also encouraged a more proactive stance for the DMA. He introduced "choice" as the key word for the DMA this year, adding that choice comes with both greater responsibility and greater opportunities to innovate.

Greco pointed out that marketers have to make many choices about how to engage the increasingly more powerful consumer.

"In every channel, some customer preference and choice is expanding and evolving rapidly," he said. "It's driving innovation in every channel. Direct marketing is not a single industry segment; it's driven by choices made by both marketers and consumers."

Greco then moved on to DMA concerns about new marketing legislation. Like Wilhelm, he saw mailing restrictions as limiting and potentially devastating to new customer acquisition and sales.

Aggressive advocacy and teamwork, Greco said, would be the touchstones for the DMA's success.

On mailing policies, he asserted, "The most pressing challenges are proposed do-not-mail laws in states. We made a commitment to act on this challenge and not wait for it to get worse."

He mentioned DMA's launch of Mail Moves America, as well as its cooperation with the postal service and chambers of commerce at national and local levels.

A second level of choice on which Greco spoke was that of corporate responsibility. He mentioned the Green 15 - fifteen guidelines for recycling, printing and packaging, and other ways to make direct marketing more environmentally sound.

The DMA has also strengthened guidelines for list compilers and embarked on a new program called Commitment to Consumer Choice. The new program asks DMA members to provide notice in each solicitation that consumers can modify or eliminate future mailings.

This provision has long been recognized in official DMA guidelines, but a key change is that the option is now more readily available to consumers and easier to activate.

"This will help us make the case that we are quite effective and capable of self-regulation," Greco explained. "It will show consumers and lawmakers that we really get it."

Greco concluded that the direct marketing community's actions will speak louder than words in the upcoming years, and that all direct marketers must make the choice to act responsibly.

"If we can't self-regulate successfully, we might as well hand over our business to legislators and regulators right now because they will dictate the success or failure of the direct marketing community," he said.

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