DM News Views: Greco Needs to Repair DMA's Relationship With AIM

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I attended a reunion of former colleagues from Jupiter Research last week. I hadn't been to one of these events in years, and it was great getting in touch with old friends. I noticed that the discussions focused much less upon what we did back in the day and much more on what each of us is doing now. I'll take that as a sign that things are getting better in the interactive space.

One of the few backward-looking topics that evening focused on the rise and fall of the Association of Interactive Marketing, the interactive division of the Direct Marketing Association. A few of us wondered what had happened to AIM. Many of us know or have met Andy Sernovitz, Ben Isaacson and Kevin Noonan, AIM's three executive directors. We all recall friction between AIM and the DMA, but few could remember what had happened to the organization that once was an important part of the interactive community.

With John A. Greco Jr. taking over as CEO of the DMA this week, some of us hope he will focus some of his brainpower toward taking AIM to the next level. I spoke with Greco recently and think that he has an excellent understanding of multichannel marketing and the interactive space. I can't predict where he will take the DMA, but I am optimistic. With that as background, I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts on the direction of the organization - the Chapell View on AIM.

Redefine AIM's mission. What do we want AIM to be, now that we as an industry are all grown up? With times getting better, I think it makes sense to re-evaluate what the interactive community needs from its trade association. Here are a few objectives I came up with. If you have others you'd like to share, I definitely want to hear them.

· Set and enforce standards and best practices.

· Provide the interactive community with a legislative voice.

· Search for synergies between online and traditional marketing.

· Maximize revenue opportunities for member companies.

· Conduct research demonstrating the value of the interactive channel.

Some of these aren't all that new. AIM always has tried to build consensus around best practices and should continue to do so. There are also newer ideas to consider. For example, I think AIM should champion the synergies between online and traditional marketing channels. Many in the industry can say an offline campaign is more effective when combined intelligently with an online one. Most can explain the 2/3/8 principle, but not nearly enough of us put those principles into practice. I'd like to see AIM champion online/offline research. Of course, that requires working closely with the DMA, which brings me to my next point.

Repair the relationship between AIM and the DMA. It is well documented that AIM and the DMA have had a challenging relationship. The flap over the e-mail best practices document last year might have signified a new low, but I don't think I'm creating news by suggesting that it has been a difficult marriage almost from day one.

I don't want to reopen old wounds. Instead, I want to suggest that with new leadership entering both organizations, now is the time to heal, rebuild and redefine the relationship. The good news is that many within both groups recognize this opportunity, and there seems to be renewed willingness by both organizations to work together. Specifically, there seems to be recognition that:

· Interactive marketing differs in some ways from offline DM.

· Because of this, interactive marketing has different standards and encompasses different challenges.

· Therefore, there will be times when AIM needs to have a slightly different solution to meet those challenges.

I'm not saying that AIM needs to own certain issues; I am saying that AIM needs to be positioned as a complementary voice within the DMA regarding those issues. The DMA needs to cut AIM some slack, and AIM needs to use that newfound freedom wisely. Otherwise, they may as well just fold AIM into the DMA entirely.

Diversify AIM membership. The membership list posted on the AIM site has too many vendors and very few DMA members. Without representation from marketers, almost everything AIM does is by definition one-sided.

For example, how can AIM help members distinguish adware from spyware without obtaining input from marketers and publishers in addition to vendors? Similarly, I've proposed that AIM foster synergies between online and offline marketing. That task becomes easier if we actually have a few DMA members participating in the discussion.

Build bridges between AIM and other trade associations. Too many turf battles have occurred between AIM and other industry groups. Remember when you were growing up and your mother lectured you about working with your brothers and sisters to get the job done quicker and better? Why not apply that here? Groups like the IAB, IAPP, OPA and ESPC should be embraced. AIM doesn't need a monopoly on research, best practices and revenue opportunities to be effective. It can work with these groups to increase learning and enhance its credibility.

We have a chance to grow our industry. I'm writing this during an election year. In that spirit, I encourage everyone reading this - DMA members, AIM members, IAPP, OPA, IAB or none of the above - to participate in this discussion. What do you want AIM to be? What don't you want AIM to be?

Even if you don't care about AIM, if you are reading these words you probably have a vested interest in the interactive space. Many challenges are ahead of us, and we need all the help we can get. I've sketched out my plan. I'd love to hear yours.


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