Brokers, Managers Peacefully Co-Exist During HVDMA Panel

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GREENWICH, CT -- List and insert brokers and managers aired some differences but mostly agreed on how to improve relations at the Hudson Valley Direct Marketing Association's Meet the List and Insert Media Experts luncheon held here yesterday at a local country club.


The panel discussion began with moderator Rich Mercado, senior manager at Madison Direct Marketing, Greenwich, CT, asking participants to discuss what makes a list broker valuable.


"A good broker is like a miner in a sense," said panelist Carolyn Woodruff, executive vice president of consumer merchandise and consumer publishing on the brokerage side at Direct Media Inc., Greenwich, CT.


Brokers have to look beyond what is on the data card for a list and learn as much as possible about how the list was built and who the consumers on it are, she said.


Other qualities cited by panelists included experience and good negotiation skills.


The lively debate started when Mercado brought up the topic of list counts.


He said that as an experiment he called 10 list managers for counts and did not receive a single one. Some of the responses he got, aside from just getting the manager's voice mail, included, "I don't know," "Look at our Web site," and "I'll get back to you."


The brokers on the panel complained that a junior-level person who may not really understand what they need to do often gives counts on the list management side resulting in three or four rounds of phone calls before the information is obtained.


"List managers need to be better educated about the properties they handle," said Joy Contreras, vice president of consumer management and brokerage at Edith Roman Associates Inc., Pearl River, NY.


With that said, panelists agreed that mentoring and training for brokers and managers was key to the industry's continued success.


Still, there is no excuse for a manager not returning a call for a count on a timely basis, said Laura Smith, vice president/director of management at RMI Direct Marketing Inc., Danbury, CT.


"There's too much of an adversarial relationship between brokers and managers," said Chris Montana, senior vice president/director of list management at Mokrynski & Associates Inc., Hackensack, NJ.


Both sides need to take the time to communicate to create beneficial relationships for the sake of their clients, he added.


The discussion also veered to online counts.


Most agreed that online counts are only as good as the people behind them and that they take away a huge opportunity.


"The Web takes away the personalization and cross-selling aspect of list and insert management," said Sandra Roscoe, senior vice president/partner at Singer Direct, Scarsdale, NY.


In addition, complex counts such as projections for an upcoming season require calculations by a knowledgeable manager, added Smith.


On the business-to-business side, the count issue is not as complex because many mailers belong to cooperative databases and counts are easily accessible, according to panelist Paulette J. Schlotman, senior vice president at MeritDirect, White Plains, NY.


Of course the ever-present issue of response rates came up too.


Panelist Jim Kabakow, executive vice president at Media Horizons Inc., Norwalk, CT, said that his firm saw decreased response for almost all of its clients in the first and second quarters of 2003 but that the third quarter looked better.


According to Montana, house files are down 12-15 percent from last year.


As a result, the same consumers are getting a lot more direct mail and response to outside lists is down, he added.


However, one bright spot has been the willingness of mailers to try new things.


Several new insert programs have come onto the market presenting a less expensive way to reach qualified prospects, said Roscoe.


"I tell clients that if a list is too expensive try its insert media counterpart," Contreras said.


Panelists agreed that they are all working toward the same goal -- to make their clients successful.


"As managers and brokers we need to be partners because if the mailers aren't in business then neither are we," said Woodruff.


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