***Larry King Questions Direct Marketing Leaders

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NEW ORLEANS -- Television and radio personality Larry King grilled three direct marketing leaders yesterday in front of a packed crowd here at the DMA fall show.

The panel included the U.S. Postal Service's postmaster general, William J. Henderson; Bob Wheling, global marketing officer, Procter & Gamble; and Kevin O'Connor, chairman/co-founder, DoubleClick Inc.

In his trademark softball style -- and with his trademark suspenders on -- King asked the panel about the future of direct marketing and how it related to the Internet, the future of mail, and each panel member's biggest challenges.

King asked the panel members what they make of all the current technological changes.

"The only constant is change," Wheling said. "But the one thing that won't change is the consumer."

King also asked Henderson whether postal mail would always exist. Henderson said it would.

"Mail is just another channel," Henderson said. "Mail right now is being used effectively by a lot of the dot-coms and computer manufacturers." He said that Dell Computer, for example, mails 40 million catalogs per quarter, and catalogs are the company's main channel for selling computers.

Wheling agreed, saying that postal mail would always be integrated with other ways of reaching consumers.

O'Connor, however, talked about the benefits of e-mail as opposed to mail and said he even sends his mother e-mail greeting cards.

King asked O'Connor about the dot-com shakeout and asked whether he was worried that his office might not be there. O'Connor replied, "No, not at all."

In addition, in a cajoling manner, O'Connor asked Henderson three times if he was going to lower postal rates, and Henderson ignored the question each time.

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