A Lot of Talk

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The Direct Marketing Association hasn't had much luck launching campaigns to improve the industry's image with consumers. Its executives talk about it a lot, but the follow through is questionable. In the United Kingdom it's a different story, but we'll get to that in a minute.


Take fall 2000, when then-president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen said the DMA would spearhead an $80 million-$100 million campaign to "set the record straight on privacy, change consumers' mindset and let them know how marketers use information and how consumers will benefit." The effort was supposed to include ads, opinion pieces, Web advertising and articles in newspapers and magazines. In the end, a few radio public service announcements were created along with some online banner ads, but the rest of it fell victim to the recession and dot-com bust.


Not even two years after its grand entrance, the group that was to do all the work disbanded. Do any of us even remember the Privacy Leadership Initiative? Meanwhile, consumers are more concerned than ever about their privacy, phishing and identity fraud, thanks to the well-publicized data security breaches of the past year.


Or how about last fall's DMA conference, when new leader John Greco said the industry must improve its image and trust with consumers. He said he wanted to collect testimonials from member companies and then disseminate them in various ways, but admitted that he was at square one on the idea. Twelve months later, Greco unveiled a nice, new blue logo for the DMA, but he had nothing to report on his effort to launch a makeover of the industry's image except that it was still needed.


However, across the Atlantic, the UK's DMA kicked off a campaign last week to regain consumer trust over growing concern with junk mail and telemarketing calls. It has a Web site, a spokeswoman (consumer affairs journalist Alice Beers) and a new channel for consumers to ask the association for advice and assistance ... and its reported cost was only in the six figures, not eight or nine. Aha! So it can be done.


Not to be left out, the U.S. DMA also issued a press release last week: 1,001 gifts to buy your pet, as part of its Shop@Home program. But what about the campaign of trust? We're told the DMA has "initialized a variety of surveys designed to establish benchmarks for consumer trust and track our progress. After the surveys are analyzed, DMA will determine what appropriate next steps make sense."


Maybe we'll get beyond talk one of these days.


Tad Clarke is editor in chief of DM News. His editorial appears Mondays on www.dmnews.com and in our e-mail newsletter. You can subscribe to our e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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