Comply or face regulation: DMA chairman

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NEW YORK -- Direct marketers should abide by Direct Marketing Association guidelines to avoid regulation that could affect business, said the lobby's new chairman.

Marcus Wilhelm, chairman of the DMA and CEO of Bookspan, told list professionals at a luncheon yesterday that it was important to keep regulators out because they tend to exaggerate things.

"Take control and raise the bar," Mr. Wilhelm said. "Show substantial compliance so that the government has no reason to step in and regulate us all out of business."

Earning the trust of consumers, regulators and legislators is critical to keeping the industry in a composed state, he said.

Mr. Wilhelm also spoke of the recent postal rate case and how the DMA has taken an active role in advocating for marketers.

"Going forward, we must work together with the Postal Service," he said. "We need to compromise. The post office has the best of intentions."

Mr. Wilhelm described the present time as the "age of super relevance." He said there has never been a time in direct marketing when marketers have had so many options to target consumers relevantly.

In fact, new technology allows marketers to be super relevant. Those marketers who are unwilling to be innovative will be left behind, the speaker said.

"Be pragmatic," Mr. Wilhelm said. "We are not just marketers and business people. At the end of the day, we are all consumers."

Commenting on the do-not-call law that was passed several years ago, Mr. Wilhelm warned the attendees of a possible do-not-mail law, for which many states have introduced legislation.

If such a law were passed, the list industry could face severe repercussions, he said. To avoid the enactment of such a law, marketers must keep consumers happy.

"Do-not-mail laws could have a devastating impact on this industry," Mr. Wilhelm said.

Another important challenge marketers and list professionals face is ensuring that data does not get into the hands of the wrong people.

"This industry is not just about sales," Mr. Wilhelm warned. "If you don't have the data, there will be nothing to sell."

Moreover, consumers will be less willing to give information that helps build lists if they are not positive that their data is secure.

Finally, Mr. Wilhelm said it was imperative to nurture new talent.

"It is important to recruit new, young people," he said. "We need them to keep our business going in the future."

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