SAN FRANCISCO — The biggest challenge facing marketers is change, according to Peter
Ueberroth, former baseball commissioner and current investor managing director at The
Contrarian Group Inc., Newport Beach, CA.
For example, in 1960 73 percent of children came home from school to a two-
parent home in which the mother didn’t work, compared to less than 10 percent today,
Ueberroth said in his opening address to a packed house of more than 3,000 direct
marketers at the DMA’s fall show last week.
“The world is changing at such a rapid rate that if you don’t step back and use
change to your advantage, you won’t be successful in your careers or your companies in
the year 2000 and beyond,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a speech to a crowded lunch audience, America Online Inc.
president/COO Robert W. Pittman noted that AOL is building its business by focusing
on the Internet’s greatest asset: convenience.
“Online is nothing more than convenience in a box,” he said. “You have to look at
all the things consumers do, convert them online and save them time.”
For example, a major activity that people spend time on is socializing, so it’s not
surprising that 40 percent of online time is spent on e-mail or in chat rooms, Pittman said.
At the same time, finding a way to transmit voices and compete directly with
telecommunications companies doesn’t seem worthwhile because it’s hard to imagine how
speaking to someone over a computer could be simpler than picking up the telephone.
Similarly, shopping on the Internet is growing because shopping in stores is time
consuming and inconvenient, but watching moving pictures on computer screens doesn’t
seem more convenient than turning on a television.
Pittman also challenged the audience to break from tradition and accept that some
mistakes will be made along the way when trying something new.
One of the conference’s other key speakers, Gary Hamel, founder and chairman of
Strategos and professor of London Business School, also called for businesses to challenge
orthodoxies, but saw the Internet’s ability to empower the consumer, rather than its
ability to save time, as its greatest strength. He noted that the Net and deregulation that
has ended local monopolies are factors contributing to greater consumer control.
“With the Internet, everything becomes an option. Online everything goes to bid,”
he said. “There will be no place for mediocrity to hide.”
During the conference, the DMA honored the 1998 inductees into the Direct
Marketing Hall of Fame: direct marketer, publisher and civil rights lawyer Morris S. Dees
Jr., chief trial counsel and chairman of the executive committee at the Southern Poverty
Law Center; catalog expert and author Richard S. Hodgson, president of Sergeant House;
publisher and direct marketer Robert J. Teufel, president/COO of Rodale Press Inc.; and,
posthumously, Thomas S. Foster (1929-96), co-founder and former president of Foster &