Editorial: When?

When will the mainstream media portray direct marketing in a better light instead of just taking easy potshots as it did at least twice last week? First up, an editorial in The New York Times urging the government to crack down on spam. It ended with: “If these bills were put up for a popular vote, they would be passed handily. But the direct marketing industry has been lobbying hard for its right to keep sending spam. People should tell their congressional representatives how strongly they feel about fighting spam – one e-mail note per person, please.” Ha. Ha.

Do a search on DMNews.com. DMers have been complaining about spam since before our archives began more than five years ago. At least the Direct Marketing Association didn’t let the Times get away with the comment. A letter from DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen was published two days later, saying in part, “The real problem in your e-mail in-box is a result of fraudulent and abusive e-mail practices, not e-mail from legitimate marketers. Such egregious e-mail is ruining the medium for businesses that use e-mail, including bookstores, airlines, apparel and other reputable marketers who play by the rules.” Too bad Wientzen got booed by the anti-DM crowd at the Federal Trade Commission’s spam forum last week. Though the panelists couldn’t agree on a definition of spam, they readily acknowledged that the problem has reached a critical point. Good. Now come up with a solution.

Another story was a “60 Minutes II” report on telemarketing and “Your Private Life for Sale.” The reporter rehashed old arguments, focusing on Mike Nevin, a county supervisor in San Mateo County, CA. Nearly frothing at the mouth, Nevin said his “financial DNA” is being stolen and discussed how his county passed an ordinance last year forcing banks to get permission from customers before sharing or selling their personal financial information. The reporter didn’t ask Nevin whether he likes reading in the Sunday newspaper each week how much his neighbors have sold their houses for.

Oddly enough, nothing was mentioned about the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 and those millions of privacy notices that financial institutions now must mail to their customers each year. (Guess Mr. Nevin tosses his out before reading them.) Seems that the public didn’t care much for the piece, as CBS came in last place among the big networks for the night.

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