New DMA chairman's focus: inform and advocate

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Markus F. Wilhelm, CEO of Bookspan, has been elected chairman of the Direct Marketing Association's board of directors for 2007. He replaces Stephen M. Lacy, president and chief operating officer of Meredith Corp., who was elected DMA chairman for 2006. Mr. Wilhelm was vice chairman previously. DM News spoke with Mr. Wilhelm about his vision for the DMA.

DM News: What is the first thing you will do as chairman?

Mr. Wilhelm: The marketing landscape will continue to face challenges as a result of governmental policy. My priority will be to keep our members ahead of the curve by keeping them informed, but most importantly, urging them to act.

However, an association can only do so much. The DMA needs the support of its members to successfully advocate for the direct marketing community, and I will support president/CEO John Greco as he urges DMA members to become active in protecting their businesses, as many of them did with the recent postal reform movement.

DMA and its members have achieved great work over the past year to elevate direct marketing's awareness and perception within the marketing community and among consumers. I'm looking forward to steering the continued efforts to provide members with the resources to ensure they deliver the most relevant and consumer-centric solicitations and uphold DMA guidelines for ethical business practice.

DM News: What are your goals? Any changes planned?

MW: DMA's role as advocate for the direct marketing community will be more important than ever, as will our responsibility of keeping members informed. Top three priorities? Continue to stay on top of postal reform issues; build a coalition to help us achieve our strategic goals by bringing together other industry associations and lobbying groups; and ensure the DMA continues to nurture career development.

DM News: What are the most important issues facing DMers now?

MW: While the marketing landscape has evolved into a multichannel environment, the U.S. mail remains a significant channel to market to customers and potential customers. Postal reform remains an issue as the recent movement in legislation this month had many DMA members responding to our "calls to action."

High-profile information thefts and security breaches have raised the importance of data security, and corporate America continues to be a target for criminals and identity thieves. Every precaution must be taken when collecting, warehousing, sharing and using customer data.

The board's most important role is to lead by example by implementing DMA guidelines in their own companies. The board provides DMA management with guidance and support and will help the DMA prioritize which issues are most urgent. Specific board members are called on individually to use their connections in the industry, Congress and other associations to foster the development of coalitions when various issue arise. The DMA's role in assisting direct marketers is to build the coalitions and work with the unions, government agencies and stakeholders in order to shape the compromises.

DM News: Is the DMA addressing the needs of interactive marketers as well as it is those of direct mailers?

MW: The DMA has long recognized the implications for the optimization of communications that rapid advances in technology have. The creation of DMA's Interactive Marketing Advisory Board and expansion of its charter membership with the recent addition of top interactive marketers drive the association's interactive marketing policy and programming efforts.

DM News: What one thing made you most proud that you and the board did while you were vice chairman?

MW: I was especially proud throughout my role as vice chairman to be part of a team of committed board members who have made contributions. One accomplishment was driving forward DMA's Strategic Plan and proceeding with prominent shifts in the way DMA operates, communicates and makes decisions -- as well as in the positions we take in the public policy arena. The integration of all of the DMA's key internal business units is enabling the association to better address the rapidly changing needs of the marketplace.

DM News: What are you looking forward to most as chairman?

MW: Building upon the strong foundation established by Steve Lacy and the preceding chairs, and the chance to visibly support our new strategic plan whenever possible. And don't forget, first and foremost I'm a marketer, so I never forget to pay attention to our primary constituent: the consumer. Utmost on my mind, however, is to inspire and encourage the membership of the DMA to be proud of what we do and to be proud of our dynamic industry.

Sidebar:

Markus Wilhelm is CEO of Bookspan, Garden City, NY, a partnership between Bertelsmann AG and Time Warner Inc. He handles the overall marketing, operations and administration of Bookspan.

Bookspan restructured Jan. 1 and became the parent organization with two wholly owned subsidiaries: Doubleday Entertainment and YES Solutions. Doubleday includes all book clubs while YES provides operational and creative services to multichannel direct marketers, national retailers and business-to-business enterprises.

Mr. Wilhelm is a member of the management board of DirectGroup Bertelsmann and is responsible for its English-speaking book club businesses worldwide.

Prior to his current position, to which he was appointed in March 2000, Mr. Wilhelm was president of Doubleday Direct Inc. In May 1993, he was named its CEO, responsible for Doubleday Direct's U.S., Canadian, British and Australian book club businesses, including overall marketing, operations and administration.

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