Column: Direct Marketers Deserve Better Protesters

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For evidence as to who may have been behind a small protest that took place late on the last day of the Direct Marketing Association's 85th Annual Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco on Oct. 23, check out this partial quote from an Internet post labeled "Greet the DMA Convention Appropriately." It appeared Oct. 21 on anti-spam discussion list NANAE:


"It's time for the First Annual San Francisco Direct Marketing Revenge Games!


You know direct marketers, although you probably don't want to. These are the bastards who fill your inbox with crap, who run up your cell bill calling you with offers you don't want, who send you four of THE SAME GODDAMN PROVIDIAN CREDIT CARD OFFER EVERY GODDAMN WEEK. These are not good people, fighting for the side of truth and justice."


Apparently, marketing executives are supposed to burst out of phone booths wearing capes.


The NANAE post lists some anti-direct marketing protest tactics, including giving direct mail back to show attendees at the Moscone Center. "Be nice and pushy about it, because you know they like to be that way with you. If a friendly offer of printed material on your part doesn't elicit the desired acceptance from their end, you might want to try yelling, another proven Personal Direct Marketing technique!"


He never explains how jamming paper into people's faces and yelling would stand out in San Francisco.


Meanwhile, someone on a related bulletin board suggested "whenever you get one of these annoying Credit Card offers, or other material that includes one of these free business return envelopes, make sure to take off any of your personal information and put it in this very same return envelope and send them all their applications back."


A fellow participant writes, "Excellent! I'm already collecting mail from the entire week. Guess I'm gonna be busy this weekend."


This is one lonely person. If you get any mail from him, may I suggest putting him on your holiday card list? And if you live in the Bay area, consider taking him out to dinner on a Friday or Saturday night ... or buying him a puppy. Show him there are far more pleasurable things to do on weekends than stuffing business reply envelopes.


In the end, "protests" against direct marketing at the fall DMA show amounted to a sculpture of an arm symbolically drowning in paper and emanating an unknown stench, left in a hallway on the last afternoon of the event, according to witnesses. Also, fliers appeared around Moscone Center with anti-DM slogans such as, "How much spam have you inflicted on the world today?" and "Making the postal service your bitch."


Wishful thinking, that last one.


Message to the protesters: I was the last DM News reporter on site Oct. 23. I spent all morning looking for news and came up empty. Empty, that is, until your fliers appeared. Even then, the protest was so inconsequential that the whole business ended up warranting a few paragraphs on the bottom of page 2 of last week's DM News.


Now, I don't want rubber bullets and tear gas flying around as happened at protests unrelated to direct marketing in downtown Seattle during the DMA's net.marketing show in 2001, but you could have done far better than this weenie effort.


Couldn't you have at least chained yourselves to a hotel shuttle bus and marched around in front of the Moscone Center entrance with crudely painted signs? You've got to think "photo opp" on these things.


Next year, do this reporter a favor and get organized. You know, just enough to disrupt things a little.


And do whatever it is you plan to do on Sunday or Monday as the conference begins. By Wednesday afternoon, those who haven't left the show already are so numbed by meetings, seminars and parties, you could lob a concussion grenade into a crowd of them and they'd simply rummage through their tchotchke bags for Tylenol.


Also, tip me off a week or two in advance so I can pen you in before my conference schedule fills up. This way, I get a quick story, you get some press and we're off site drinking by noon. We don't even have to drink together.


Doesn't that sound better than stuffing envelopes all weekend?


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