EDITORIAL: Honesty Is the Best Policy

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We -- you, me and everyone else in this industry -- have our work cut out. Though the mood at the Direct Marketing Association's fall show last week was upbeat and people were happy (New Orleans had much to do with that), DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen mapped out a full agenda in his opening address. Specifically, he cited an advertising campaign to combat the industry's privacy problem, which has come to a head because of the Internet. The effort will cost $80 million to $100 million, a number that Wientzen seemed afraid to mention in his opening speech. The DMA isn't looking to increase membership rates, however. For an undertaking this big, it will have to solicit donations from big companies with deep pockets. Most important is for marketers to be honest with consumers. Tell them upfront what you're doing with the information you collect and why. If they see a benefit, they'll be more than willing to say yes.

Other thoughts from the show:

• The DMA hit upon a concept with keynoter Larry King that's worth repeating with other casts. King's roundtable discussion with Postmaster General William J. Henderson, DoubleClick CEO Kevin O'Connor and Bob Wehling, global marketing officer at Procter & Gamble, was informative and entertaining, though King let Henderson out of the hot seat several times -- especially with an audience of mailers facing the largest increases in the U.S. Postal Service's current rate case.

• Another good move to change the hours on the exhibit floor and get things going earlier on Sunday. Though some exhibitors groused that the people walking around the hall that afternoon were mainly other exhibitors and speakers, it was much busier than with the people usually left by Wednesday afternoon. Just give attendees another year or two to get used to the different schedule.

• Federated Department Stores' problem with its Fingerhut division was on the minds of several marketers. What was Federated -- home to upscale Bloomingdale's -- expecting with Fingerhut and its millions of low-income individuals with poor credit? Yes, Fingerhut has a large warehouse operation and was moving rapidly in the online world, but most of that was because of former president Will Lansing. Basically, there isn't a whit of synergy between these two very different businesses.

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