25 Years Young

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DM News celebrates a milestone this week. "The Newspaper of Direct Marketing," then a monthly, published its first edition 25 years ago Sept. 15. The lead story for the 28-page issue reported on heavy attendance at the Direct Mail/Marketing Association's List Day because of concern over potential government restriction of mailing list uses. Sound familiar?

Founding owner Adrian Courtenay was publisher, and Joe Fitz-Morris was editor. Contributors included Stanley Fenvessy, Barry Pavelec and Jack Oldstein, who asked in the December issue: Should list firms computerize their lists? His answer: "That depends," and he said it's not worth it if a list has fewer than 20,000 names and has to be updated weekly.

In the November issue, DM News reported on problems at the DM/MA's fall show, held at the Hilton Hotel in New Orleans. Attendance exceeded expectations (a record 3,700), but the air conditioning broke down in the exhibit hall, airlines and hotels were overbooked, telephones were out of order and there was no place to get a cup of coffee without a 20-minute wait. If you've noticed that I keep referencing the DM/MA, it wasn't the Direct Marketing Association until two years later when the name change occurred. Obviously, those were the days before PCs, e-mail and the Internet, but it also was when toll-free numbers weren't standard and "four to six weeks for delivery" was acceptable. Back then a database was merely a list of names and addresses while personalization, customization and targeting were words marketers dreamed about.

Catalogs were put together by cutting and waxing sheets of copy onto mechanical boards and sent to the printer along with spec sheets and a list of instructions. Sears, J.C. Penney and Montgomery Ward published their "big books," and no one had heard of home shopping channels. Not even the National Change of Address service was around yet, though the U.S. Postal Service saw the writing on the wall regarding First-Class mail volume even then and spent millions of dollars to launch its E-COM Electronic Mail Service. Ironically, it was discontinued in 1984 because of rising prices, lack of market interest and pressure from the private sector.

Have I whetted your appetite? Look for a special supplement in our Oct. 4 issue that will include a month-by-month timeline noting the top stories over the years. We'll also have commentary from industry leaders and commentators about how the various DM disciplines have changed as well as a few reminiscences from "The Chief" Adrian Courtenay.


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