WASHINGTON — The direct marketing industry does not have enough professionalism, Richard Viguerie, the right-wing guru of direct mail solicitation in the 1970s and '80s, said yesterday at the Direct Marketing Association of Washington's Annual Conference & Expo.
Viguerie, chairman of American Target Advertising, Manassas, VA, is credited with creating the Moral Majority and being the “funding father” of the conservative movement.
“I would not want to fly an airplane or have a doctor or a lawyer who had the skills of the average person in direct marketing. It's just a fact of life,” he said.
He added that he suspects if he took a poll, there would be “a fair number of people here who have yet to read their first direct mail book and a large number who have not read more than three or four or five direct mail or direct marketing books. Would any of us go to a doctor who had read four or five medical books?”
Instead, “we all stand on the giants — Pete Hoke, Ed Mayer, Dick Benson, Claude Hopkins, Bob Stone,” Viguerie said. “These men paved the way for us.”
Viguerie spoke as part of the Election Year Leaders' Forum, where a panel of experts with various political views offered an inside look at the art of political direct mail as well as opinions on the latest trends and challenges facing nonprofit and political fundraising.
However, Viguerie also offered some hope.
“I love my business. I love my industry,” he said, “and I think we can all work to ratchet up our level of professionalism. Our friends and colleagues in this industry have made major changes in the way politics is conducted in this country. Millions and millions of people are now participating in politics that have never done so before, and we can take a lot of pride that we have empowered so many people to participate in the democratic process.”
As to how political groups should conduct a direct mail campaign in today's environment, Viguerie offered this advice: “Make sure you consult a knowledgeable attorney. The IRS is weighing in now and saying you can't do things that people have routinely done in past elections.”
Nonprofit and commercial mailers also need to be strategic with their mailing plans this year, Viguerie said, because there will be a great deal of competition in the consumer's mailbox. As a result, he suggested working “your house file extra hard” and wait until the first week of November to prospect.
Also on the panel were Hal Malchow, chairman of Malchow, Schlackman, Hoppey & Cooper; and Paul Clolery, editor in chief of The NonProfit Times. Rick Whalen, president of Marketing General Inc., moderated the discussion.