Wientzen: Avoid Complacency and Remain Informed

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NEW YORK - Direct Marketing Association president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen delivered a wide-ranging welcome address yesterday at the DM Days New York Conference & Exhibition.


He told attendees that this could be the last time he addresses members since his final day on the job is June 30.


"Certainly, the changes that I've witnessed in the marketing world during my 37-year career have been nothing short of extraordinary," Wientzen said.


For example, in 1967, database computing meant room-size computers and punch cards along with reels of magnetic tapes. Direct marketing was synonymous with mail-order catalogs and direct mail. Mass-audience general advertising was king of the marketing hill, he said.


"Today, however, direct marketing represents more than half of all U.S. advertising expenditures. In short, direct marketing has a new respectability, and many companies as well as whole industries are getting on board."


Wientzen also urged attendees to never be complacent, to keep stretching professionally and intellectually and to "stay informed and involved in your industry, the DMA, and your other professional organizations."


Wientzen asked industry professionals to "keep informed and vocal on the legislative and regulatory issues that are, or could, very significantly impact the way you conduct business."


An example he said was postal reform.


"We need postal reform and we need it now," he said. "We've been fighting this fight for 10 years."


Wientzen added that several weeks ago, the House Government Reform Committee unanimously passed a reform bill. Then, on May 20, Sens. Susan Collins and Tom Carper introduced their bill.


"And it's looking pretty good that both of these bills will move forward this summer," Wientzen said.


But with the Postal Service having numerous constituencies that have frequently competing interests, getting a bill out of Congress and onto the President's desk will be no small task.


He offered a reminder regarding who the boss is: the customer.


"Increasingly, the customer is more informed, more demanding, and more in control," Wientzen said. "I think a lot of direct marketers hear that message. But are they acting as if this is truly the case? Well, I'm not so certain. What about your company?"


For example, Wientzen asked, "are consumer protection policies some legalese posted somewhere on your Web site, or are they ingrained in your corporate culture? I hope it's the latter, because if it's not, then your company may be part of the problem, which - sooner more likely than later - could help trigger government regulation of our industry."


He asked if DMers should eliminate exaggeration and puffery in their marketing efforts, and if they should continue to tolerate those who keep pushing the envelope online, in the mail and on the telephone.


"We have just got to pay close attention to what consumers think of our industry because, plain and simple, it impacts your bottom lines," he said.


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