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Integration is key word at DMA

The Direct Marketing Association’s annual conference is an inevitable part of any conversation at this time of year. Those who are going are in serious, last-minute planning mode, and those who aren’t are valiantly trying to keep business as usual around those few days in mid-October.

Given the show’s role as a kind of benchmark in direct marketing’s annual calendar, DM News has once again solicited industry views about the upcoming event, on page 16. This was not a scientific poll, and contrary opinions will always emerge; some think the show is an unrivaled, once-a-year opportunity to really catch up with industry trends, while other, less sanguine attendees consider it a necessary evil.

One common theme that emerged in many of the opinions we heard was that the DMA needs to do a better job of making its annual conference a good home for new media thinking. Web 2.0 is a reality for more and more marketers every day, and one of our contributors chided the DMA for not having Facebook in attendance.

When I spoke to John Greco last week for the Q&A on page 14, I asked him who wasn’t attending that should. His answer was more general (“everyone who isn’t”) than specific (Facebook/MySpace/etc.), but it’s clear that he’s thinking long and hard about ways of making the organization increasingly relevant to such companies. Since last year’s San Francisco outing, the association acquired the Email Experience Council (EEC), and its founder Jeanniey Mullen told us she hopes the marketing industry will be looking forward, positively, this year, instead of dwelling on negative issues such as postal reform and spam, as it had done in previous years. It is perhaps a little uncharitable to overlook such events as the EEC’s acquisition when considering the DMA’s position on new media.

There are, of course, many shows out there that are catering specifically to digital channels. Last week saw the Electronic Retailing Association’s annual convention in Las Vegas. While the DRTV medium that the show celebrates has been around for decades, its power has been hugely amplified by newer channels such as search.

Draftfcb, an agency that put its money where its mouth is when it was formed from an ad agency and direct marketing agency merging their bottom lines, is clearly on this track. In the pre-show predictions, SVP and group management director Dasher Lowe predicts that a major theme at the DMA will be the integration of channels, and he also talks about the integration of DRTV with search, as well as other cross-pollinations, that really underscore this point.

So for the DMA, it’s not so much a question of whether the conference program and the show floor can properly cater to the burgeoning new media space. It’s more a question of, will people attending the show be able to experience programming that shows us how old and new methods can be, and should be, combined. Walking from the main exhibit hall to the interactive pavilion should only be a physical change of scenery, not an ideological one.

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