No Longer A Standalone Organization, DMA Absorbs AIM

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The Direct Marketing Association disbanded the Association for Interactive Marketing, ending the 12-year run of an organization designed to represent the interests of Internet marketers.


AIM has been transformed into the DMA's Interactive Marketing Advisory Board, a research, education and advisory entity at the DMA. Its 200-odd members become full-fledged DMA members until their membership is up for renewal.


"As a standalone organization, it no longer exists," said Matt Blumberg, chairman/CEO of New York e-mail marketing firm ReturnPath and an AIM member. "AIM as its own trade association is no longer. The history of the Internet as far as traditional organizations is creating a standalone organization and then ultimately absorbing it into the whole. The reality is that AIM's membership is low and it has been for several years. By making AIM's five councils available to the entire DMA membership, the DMA is expanding coverage in interactive."


Yesterday's move comes three months after the DMA decided to end its net.marketing show after low attendance even though other interactive conferences are booming.


Though the association won't say, inadequate financial benefits from both net.marketing and AIM may have played a key role in these consolidations under new DMA president/CEO John A. Greco Jr. But the DMA is wary to admit as much.


"This has very little to do with financial and much more to do with being able to leverage expertise and knowledge that has been siloed in the AIM brand for the larger community," said Lou Mastria, DMA vice president of communications.


The DMA bought AIM in 1998. Over the years, the DMA created the Marketing Technology and Interactive Council and in 1999 acquired the Internet Alliance, a subsidiary now focusing on state-level policy issues. The Internet Alliance reports to Jerry Cerasale, the DMA's senior vice president of government affairs.


Under the new alignment, all 5,200 members of the DMA will have access to five AIM councils. They cover e-mail, search marketing, performance-based marketing, e-commerce and online advertising.


The DMA Interactive Marketing Advisory Board will have members comprising the chairman of the Marketing Technology and Interactive Council, the executive director of the Internet Alliance and chairs of the five AIM councils.


IMAB members include Blumberg; Michael Della Penna, chief marketing officer at Bigfoot Interactive; and Scott Ferber, CEO of AOL's Advertising.com. Ferber is the group's chairman.


"What's happening is that the new leadership at the DMA is really embracing interactive marketing in a new way for the DMA," Blumberg said. "John Greco has a very fundamental belief that all direct marketers are interactive marketers and all interactive marketers are direct marketers. So rather what this move does is instead of just disbanding AIM, the DMA is expanding its membership by a few hundred. What's happening now is that the councils within AIM are now available to all members of the DMA, where previously a company would have to join both organizations."


Few AIM members also were DMA members before the interactive body's closing. AIM members who have been given DMA membership have the option to renew at the end of their term. There will be no extra charges until the DMA membership is up for renewal.


Another justification for stripping AIM of its independence, as noted by the DMA: Interactive marketing, as a discipline, is practiced by more than 80 percent of the overall DMA membership.


"I think for us, what we saw in the market was that more and more marketers were integrating their interactive elements into larger integrated marketing campaigns that included direct and interactive marketing," Mastria said. "So, to have them relate only to the interactive piece instead of the whole waterfront of direct marketing, which includes interactive, didn't make sense going forward. The two organizations weren't talking to each other and therefore were not leveraging each other's expertise."


Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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