Leaner FEDMA Sets Course for the Internet

BRUSSELS – The Federation of European Direct Marketing has embarked on a “leaner” course following months of turmoil and financial instability.

A board meeting held here last month approved the new direction and a report prepared by FEDMA’s three-man “Vision” group over the summer. The group was convened in the wake of a $60,000-plus shortfall.

The deficit was first announced at last spring’s FEDMA forum in Strasbourg, but the amount made public then was much lower than subsequent investigation showed – only $20,000. That was problematic since Belgian law does not allow non-profits to run a deficit.

The Vision group report proposed drastic spending and personnel cuts to bring the budget in line. Director general for business affairs Dirk Frans resigned, ostensibly because it “was time to move on” but, in fact, sources say, as part of overall cost cutting.

Staff was cut from 17 to 8 and the organization grouped into a public affairs and membership division under the leadership of Alastair Tempest, director general for public affairs.

Tempest is the European DM industry’s chief lobbyist at the European Commission and other European institutions such as the parliament. He will now add other responsibilities to his brief.

Much of the organization’s recent difficulties stemmed from the merger of two European DM organizations, EDMA and FEDIM, which each brought different cultures and business practices to the new body.

“The effort to maintain some kind of parity between the two was bound to fail,” one source said, “and that is now over. We have one organization and that’s that.”

“We have to develop a new program with a few clearly defined goals which we must reach by the end of next year. If we do, FEDMA has a real future. If we don’t and the old habits take over, it won’t,” said another source.

Little hard news dribbled out of the board meeting at which all members were sworn to on-the-record secrecy.

But it was learned that FEDMA would outsource some of its more expensive past projects, such as the annual FEDMA forum and the best of Europe awards. They are slated to be held here next spring, but no firm decision has yet been made.

The core reform the Vision report proposed – and the board accepted – was a drastic shift towards the Internet.

“We are going to move much more online,” Tempest said. “We recognize in a new mission statement that we are an essential and vital part of e-commerce.”

The statement, FEDMA said in a terse press release, will reflect the organization’s “leadership on e-commerce issues at the European level, and the emphasis given to e-commerce by the European Institutions in their legislative proposals.”

A first step, Tempest noted, was the launch of a Web site. It will be a major communications vehicle with the group’s membership.

Tempest emphasized that while the Vision report had laid out main strategies, details still needed to be worked out.

One other problem still to be resolved, other sources said, was the composition of the board. It has over 30 members and is, sources said, not viable over the long term unless the number of members is reduced.

A special committee has been appointed to consider the organization’s structure and to make recommendations for change.

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