Name Change Would Muddy the Waters of What DMA Stands for

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I read Tad Clarke's editorial regarding his advocacy of changing the name of the DMA to DIMA ("Is It Time for DIMA?" Dec. 13). With all due respect, I would be against this change mostly because, I believe, it muddies the waters of what the DMA stands for.

The Direct Marketing Association encompasses all the various aspects of direct marketing - direct marketing in direct mail, direct marketing in print advertising, direct marketing in telephone solicitations and, yes, direct marketing on the Internet, among many others. Using his suggestion, I suppose one could make a case for changing the name to DMDMIPA (Direct Marketing Direct Mail Interactive and Print Association).

In its simplest form, the DMA stands for all of these disciplines, encompassing all aspects of the direct marketing tapestry. To identify a specific area of direct marketing to the exclusion of others that are also significant in our industry creates an imbalance that the term DMA already speaks for.

Clarke mentioned that about 22 years ago, six companies quit to protest the change from the Direct Mail/Marketing Association to the DMA. My company was one of those companies, and the change in name was one of the reasons, but far from the only reason, these companies quit. Our company was Computer Directions Group, which encompassed Woodruff-Stevens and Names Unlimited, two major players in the mailing list industry at that time.

The reason we and the others quit was more of a sense that the whole concept of direct mail in general and the list business more specifically were considered the stepchildren of the direct marketing landscape. We had very little influence in our national association and were held in little regard. Our leaving the DMA was a protest against this demeaning lack of recognition.

As such, we started our own organization called the Mailing List Users and Suppliers Association (ML/USA), which eventually attracted almost 200 members. We weren't competing with or protesting against the DMA but simply wanted and needed our own forum to establish and reinforce our credentials as a vital part of the direct marketing industry. We thrived for five years (I was its president most of that time), and it became a well-recognized factor in the industry. It wasn't until Jonah Gitlitz came in as the DMA's president that communication between the DMA and our breakaway group started to take place. Eventually, around 1987, we decided to cast our lot back with the DMA and merged back in with the association.

My point is that the DMA is supposed to recognize and represent every faction of our industry, nurturing each one and being an advocate for each one. If it stops doing this, then perhaps a standalone interactive group that may not be getting the recognition it certainly would require might break away and start its own group. It has happened before with other groups.

But until then, it is the DMA's job and responsibility to ensure that all of the factions that make up the direct marketing marketplace feel fuzzy, warm and loved by our industry organization. As such, there would be no need to change the name.

Ralph Stevens, Senior vice president, MKTG Services

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