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25th Anniversary Issue: Timeline 1979-1983


SEPTEMBER: Nearly 600 list executives at List Day grumble about privacy, while Direct Mail/Marketing Association officials say the only logical way to avoid government regulation is self-regulation. … Among DM News’ first advertisers: Jami Direct Marketing, Woodruff-Stevens & Associates, Hayden Publishing Co. Inc., Dunhill International List Co. Inc., Mal Dunn Associates Inc. and Qualified Lists Corp.

OCTOBER: Direct marketers have the leanest summer in seven years as far as the job market is concerned, but that’s all over, writes H.B. Crandall. The slowdown was not seasonal, but a reflection of the recession. … On DM News’ masthead: editor Joe Fitz-Morris; staff reporters Linda Miller and Amelia Arcamone; contributing editors Barry Pavelec, Stanley Fenvessy and Francesca van der Ling; and publisher Adrian Courtenay.

NOVEMBER: Attendance at the DM/MA conference in New Orleans tops 3,700, its highest yet. The DM/MA meets with exhibitors privately to discuss problems at the show: Airlines and hotels were overbooked; phones were out of order; the air conditioning broke down in the exhibit hall on the opening day; and “there was no place in the Hilton to get a cup of coffee without a 20-minute wait,” says one exhibitor.

DECEMBER: John Jay Daly predicts that 40 percent of First-Class volume can be diverted to electronic means and that this could affect the rates publishers and mailers pay in the future. … Jack Oldstein of Dependable Lists Inc. asks: Should you computerize your lists? The answer is, of course: It depends.


JANUARY-APRIL: Postage, paper and production costs of direct mail efforts at the 50,000-piece level are $323 per thousand for Third-Class regular bulk mail, according to a DM/MA survey. The cost lowers to $242 per thousand when volume hits 250,000 pieces. … Larry Schwartz, president of National Order Systems, says an 800 number is no longer just an alternative response mechanism.

MAY-AUGUST: Publishers Clearing House plans to shift its media emphasis from direct response television to direct mail. … During the past eight years, “sleepy Omaha, NE, has awakened as one of the telemarketing capitals of the world,” writes Scott Scofield of Northwestern Bell Telephone Co. … The Postal Rate Commission opens a proceeding to look at the electronic mail situation. The USPS is interested in this because it is estimated that within 20 years, 40 percent of all mail will be handled electronically. … Washburn Associates will launch “The Home Shopping Show,” a weekly cable TV program to let viewers buy goods and services by viewing demonstrations on their TVs and then placing orders by phone or mail. … List Day 1980 will feature a musical review conceived, written and performed by prominent list executives, including Irv Mayer, John Pahmer, Nancy Budinger, Bob Albert, Philip Cheevers and Margaret Ginns.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: The DM/MA will test an advertising campaign on cable TV to educate the public on the value of mail-order catalogs. …The American Bar Association is expected to amend its Code of Professional Responsibility to permit lawyers to advertise their services through direct mail. … The USPS accepts bids from manufacturers to design an electronic message system that will be used in the Electronic Computer Originated Mail program scheduled for launch in January 1982. … Direct marketing salaries are on par with other industries, according to a Crandall Associates survey. Sample salaries: art/direct marketing, $30,620 to $39,270; circulation, $34,280 to $47,800; fulfillment, $36,200 to $40,860; operations, $42,760 to $46,890; and account management, $35,740 to $46,770. … Paul A. Goldner, president of Pagex Systems, calls the nine-digit ZIP Code a “Franken-stein’s Monster before our eyes.”


JANUARY-APRIL: The Postal Inspection Service investigates Northwest Periodicals, a defunct telephone marketing firm that allegedly sold subscriptions to “hundreds of magazines” without fulfilling the orders. Meanwhile, Time Inc. sues J&J Publications and National Publishers Bureau, saying they used Time’s lists to sell subscriptions to Time publications but never fulfilled the orders. … Sales volume generated by direct marketing in 1980 is estimated at more than $110 billion, according to the DM/MA, up from $99 billion in 1979. … The USPS’ annual mail volume will decrease by 16 billion to 28.3 billion pieces by 2000 because of private company development of electronic mail and electronic communications systems, according to the U.S. comptroller general. … Many list management companies increase the number of premiums, gifts and sweepstakes offered to brokers as an incentive to rent their lists, given the more competitive field.

MAY-AUGUST: The U.S. Court of Appeals rules that the USPS’ Board of Governors discriminated against nonprofits by giving them a phased discount for carrier route sorting of mail when commercial firms received a full discount. … Reactions of telephone marketers to the FCC’s decision to approve WATS (Wide Area Telephone Service) line rate restructuring vary from consternation to resignation. … American National Cable Communications Inc. will begin testing a concept called Video Shopper, which uses cable commercials and a shopping channel to demonstrate and sell products displayed in a catalog. … The DM/MA distributes a 13-page illustrated booklet to help businesses explain to consumers, “How Did They Get My Name?” … More than 3,500 direct marketing people register at this year’s DM Day in New York, establishing an attendance record for the event.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: Federal Express Corp. launches a direct response campaign to promote its Overnight Letter service. … Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, writes a letter to the USPS’ Board of Governors objecting to the temporary Third-Class mailing rates that the board adopted in March. She says the rates “bestowed a unique artificial advantage on a limited class of mailers.” Newspapers mail at Second-Class rates. … Nashua Photo Corp. files a lawsuit in California Superior Court to try to recover taxes paid on direct marketing sales in the state.


JANUARY-APRIL: The USPS launches its E-COM Electronic Mail Service after a district court rejects a lawsuit by the Justice Department that says the USPS did not pursue the matter of rates with the Postal Rate Commission. … Salaries in the mailing service industry during 1981 range from $11,700 for a customer service rep on the West Coast to $43,250 for a plant manager in the East. The figures are part of a confidential survey compiled for the Mail Advertising Service Association International. … Top mail-order catalog execs hold a hush-hush meeting in Mount Vernon, NY, to form the Catalog Committee, a business group that will be independent of any DM industry association. The meeting was held at the home of Lillian Katz, president of Lillian Vernon Inc. Katz would not comment other than to say, “I only fed them.”

MAY-AUGUST: SMM Mail Order Marketing, which reportedly owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to creditors, is placed in the hands of a trustee pending the outcome of involuntary bankruptcy proceedings in federal court. … The overall executive job market is expected to remain flat through the third quarter, but the catalog and direct mail fields will be exceptions, says Thorndike Deland Associates. … National Geographic, The New Yorker and four other consumer magazines refuse to carry ads from the National Rifle Association for a campaign designed to correct what it claims is “shabby” treatment by the press.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: A stipulated judgment by the California Superior Court orders California to pay Nashua Photo Corp. $15,000 in the state’s effort to recover DM sales taxes. … A survey of executive compensation in direct marketing indicates the top salary paid to a senior executive officer is $250,000. … Victoria’s Secret Inc. plans to raise its catalog mailing to 3 million pieces in 1983. The total was 1 million in 1981 and 2 million this year. … A matchbook manufacturer cancels a direct response subscription promotion by The National Lampoon after getting complaints from consumers offended by the illustration and headline. It featured a reproduction of an old Lampoon magazine cover photo of an outstretched arm pointing a gun at a dog with the headline, “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.”


JANUARY-APRIL: The George W. Park Seed Co. will become the first mail-order company to ship merchandise into outer space. The space shuttle Challenger will carry a payload of 46 varieties of the firm’s seeds. The experiment will cost Park $5,000: $3,000 for the trip and $2,000 for the self-contained canister. … Congress is near passage of a bill to give the USPS broader powers to investigate mail fraud. The Mail Order Consumer Protection Act of 1983 would allow for levying fines of up to $10,000 a day against firms that fail to halt fraudulent mail-order schemes when ordered to.

MAY-AUGUST: Six firms resign as DMA members to protest a raise in membership fees and other claimed grievances. Another reason cited was the recent name change from the Direct Mail/Marketing Association to Direct Marketing Association. The firms are Spencer Gifts; Computer Directions Group, which includes Woodruff-Stevens & Associates and Names Unlimited; Cloud Nine Ranch; Uni-Mail List Corp.; Carol Enters List Co.; and The Kaplan Agency. …The majority of buyers of a recent direct mail offer are responding by personal computers. According to E. Kirk Shelton, president of Comp-U-Store, the program uses “information utilities” as a response device. For PC owners who are not members of CompuServe or The Source, Comp-U-Store can be accessed through phone centers in “400 or 500 cities.” These centers provide a local access number that members can dial and then log on to the Comp-U-Store mainframe. … The Mailing List Users and Suppliers Association is close to being established. Sources say the steering committee consists of Ralph Stevens, Woodruff-Stevens Inc.; Annette Brodsky, Accredited Lists; Robert Gordon, RCA Direct Marketing; Tom Kaplan, The Kaplan Agency; William Carney, NBL; Allen Bilofsky, Spencer Gifts; and Rosemarie Montroy, Mal Dunn Associates.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: Six direct mail companies provide the IRS with evidence of a willingness to take part in its effort to use direct mail marketing lists to catch tax delinquents, though the IRS declined to name them. Three firms considered to have the capability sought by the IRS – R.L. Polk & Co., Donnelley Marketing and Metromail Corp. – say they won’t participate. … USPS operation of its E-COM electronic mail service comes under congressonal criticism. E-COM has attracted only one major mailer, Automotive Incentive Development.

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