DMA digs in for no-mail fight

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Ramesh Ratan
Ramesh Ratan

The Direct Marketing Association has strengthened its arsenal against proposed do-not-mail legislation by beefing up its Mailing Preference Ser­vice (MPS), offering consumers more choice in how and when they receive direct mail. 

As part of the effort, the DMA will also invest in a consumer outreach campaign to help com­municate some of these initia­tives that will start to roll out in the fourth quarter of 2008. 

The DMA's efforts come at a time when the cataloging com­munity is turning to new rein­forcements to help get its voice heard in Washington, including the American Catalog Mailers Association (ACMA). Last week the ACMA received a resound­ing endorsement from the New England Mail Order Association (NEMOA). 

The DMA held a Catalog Sum­mit last week, where DMA pres­ident and CEO John A. Greco Jr. discussed recent initiatives to show consumers and lawmakers that marketers want to honor consumers' choices and are ca­pable of self-regulation. 

“There is a real lack of under­standing of the facts and the im­plications of what direct market­ers do on the part of consumers and regulators,” said Ramesh Ratan, EVP and COO at the DMA, after the summit. 

He added that this is one of the reasons why the number of states with proposed do-not-mail registries has grown from three in 2005 to 15 this year. Rattan expects it to reach 25 next year. 

The MPS service has been improved from its previous capa­bility, in which consumers could solely suppress their names from all mailings from DMA mem­bers. Now, consumers can choose what they don't want to receive by company, brand or catalog ti­tle at www.dmachoice.org.

In the future, the DMA hopes to further expand this service to provide an opportunity for consumers to say that they only want to receive certain catalogs at certain times or frequencies during the year. In addition to the enhancements, DMA members are now required to run the MPS list against their own on a monthly basis, instead of quarterly. There's also a new opt-in service that lets consumers choose which catalogs they would like to receive by company, brand and by prod­uct category. 

MPS currently has a $1 verification fee, something that has been somewhat controversial as other organizations have come out with similar services that don't include a fee, such as Catalog Choice. 

“We're currently working on eliminat­ing the fee,” Ratan said, but he added that it will remain in place until DMA can find an authentication and verification system that works nationwide and is secure. 

Another initiative discussed at the sum­mit included the DMA's new Green 15 guidelines, which address list hygiene, printing and paper usage. Ratan said that over the next year he expects some of these guidelines to become requirements. 

The DMA also pointed to its Com­mitment to Consumer Choice, a series of requirements related to how market­ers communicate with consumers about their lists. Members are now required to inform customers and prospects of their ability to modify or suppress all future mail solicitations from a marketer. 

Other trade associations are also doing what they can to make sure catalogers' con­cerns are being heard when it comes time for bills to be written and postage rates to be set. For the first time in its 60-year his­tory, NEMOAlast week publicly endorsed the ACMA, a lobbying group for catalog­ers, in an e-mail to its members. 

“This was a huge decision for us,” said NEMOA executive director Janie Downey, since members have a signifi­cant amount of trust in the organiza­tion. She said that the board is “sure that our industry needs an organization like ACMA right now,” because “we want to be better represented in Washington.” 

The e-mail, which came from NEMOA president Jean Geisman, asked members to join the ACMA, saying, “we think this new organization will play a key role in the future success of your company.” 

The ACMA was formed this spring af­ter catalogers were dealt an up to 40% postage rate increase, ostensibly because they didn't have their own special inter­est group representing the industry in Washington. While the DMA lobbies on behalf of catalogers, it also does the same for other areas of the direct marketing in­dustry, some of which may have differing needs. 

The finger pointing that was prevalent several months after the postage increase came down is giving way to a period of cooperation. 

“There's an emerging awareness that this industry needs to unite” if anything is going to get accomplished, said Hamilton Davison, executive director of the ACMA. 

So far, NEMOA's decision to endorse the ACMAis being met with positive reactions. Ratan said that “strength of numbers” is helpful, and Joe Mediate, CEOof KooKoo Bear Kids, said, “What NEMOAand ACMAare trying to do is look after [catalogers'] backs.” 

“NEMOAmembers will certainly lis­ten and consider ACMA” as a result of the e-mail, added George Mollo, presi­dent of GJM Associates. However, since its membership consists of a lot of small­er companies, he feels many may not be able to afford membership fees for an­other organization.  

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