NARC board expands, adding voices for direct

For the first time since it was founded more than 30 years ago, The National Advertising Review Council (NARC) recently expanded its board by adding leaders from three leading direct marketing orga­nizations: Julie Coons, president and CEO of the Electronic Retail­ing Association (ERA); John A. Greco, Jr., president and CEO of the Direct Marketing Association; and Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Adver­tising Bureau (IAB).

The announcement came quickly after President Obama’s inauguration. As a coalition of associations and the Better Busi­ness Bureau set up to respond to concerns about truth in advertis­ing, the group is closely watching what’s happening in Washington, DC, these days.

“People don’t know what the new administration’s opinion will be on self-regulation,” said Lee Peeler, president of NARC and EVP of the Council of Better Busi­ness Bureaus. Previous recent administra­tions have leaned toward allowing industry to self-regulate, he noted.

There may be a shift in attitude, however, because of recent current events such as the collapse of the financial sector.

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Still, early indications from the new administration are that there is going to be a real push for new regulations in light of the perceived failures of other industries, she continued.

The NARC model is frequently cited as an example of successful industry self-regulation, and it is that success that led to a decision to expand, Peeler said. “About a year and a half ago, we decided to do a strategic plan to see how we can build on the NARC model and make it applicable in other areas,” he explained.

Out of that review came the idea to expand board membership to organizations with established reputations in self-regulation and that would provide additional perspective on where NARC needs to grow in a new media context, he added.

The DMA, for example, has maintained its own self-regulatory programs for years and the ERA has been working with NARC on the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program since 2004.

One of the issues the NARC board, which now has 11 members, expects to address is how truth in advertising applies to blogging, viral marketing and virtual worlds.

“Every month brings the emergence of new media and marketing techniques — blogs, Tweets, viral campaigns and virtual worlds, to name a few,” Greco said in an e-mail to DMNews. “As is the case with more traditional forms of advertising and market­ing, it is essential that claims made in these new media be truthful.”

The NARC announcement also reflects how the traditional separation between brand advertising and direct marketing is eroding in an era when marketers are increasingly looking for a strong ROI.

“The historical differences that existed between advertising and direct marketing are narrowing and will continue to narrow,” said Peeler.

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