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Editorial: Say Goodbye to 2003

This year was marked by war with Iraq, spam making e-mail nearly unreadable, the threat of a do-not-mail list, stability with postal rates, a blackout for much of the Northeast and the Supreme Court deciding two cases involving direct marketers. Yet none of that had more effect than the Federal Trade Commission’s no-call registry. Let’s look back:

Don’t call us. At this time last year, could anyone have imagined the 12 months telemarketers had in store for them? Just days before the do-not-call list was set to take effect this fall, a district court invalidated the whole thing. Then Congress stepped in and introduced and passed legislation in less than a day – only declaring war on Japan during World War II took less time – to find it didn’t do any good thanks to another court decision. So, where are we now? Well, the appeals court has yet to rule, 55 million people have added their names to the DNC list and humorist Dave Barry has written two columns ridiculing the American Teleservices Association.

Has spam been canned? Let’s answer that question with one word: No. But will CAN-SPAM do any good? I still say yes despite what the anti-spammers of the world say. The best thing about CAN-SPAM is that it pre-empts the California spam law, which would have effectively killed e-mail marketing. However, the answer to the problem doesn’t lie just in legislation, but also in technology and best practices. Sad that the Association for Interactive Marketing and Council for Responsible E-mail couldn’t even include a definition of spam in their best practices document.

Postal woes. Too bad the postal hierarchy and its unions can’t always get together like they did two weeks ago to blast Fox’s “Mad TV” skit involving some disgruntled postal workers. Too bad American Postal Workers Union president William Burrus called direct mailers “vermin” a few months ago because he didn’t like the recommendations from the President’s Commission on the U.S. Postal Service. The good news is that President Bush has urged Congress to pass reform, and lawmakers are voicing agreement. Still, mailers should prepare for bad times ahead: Officials have warned that the next rate increase, coming in 2006, will be big.

New direction for DMA? After being beaten up over DNC and spam all year, Bob Wientzen finally said enough and will retire from the Direct Marketing Association next year. It will be interesting to see what direction his successor will take the DMA. A change is needed. But we’ll save those thoughts for another day.

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