Why Is the DMA Dragging Its Feet?

News from last week’s fall conference in Toronto centered on privacy. OK, it centered on a lot of parties and the usual networking, but privacy issues were evident every time you turned around – from a “60 Minutes” camera crew traipsing through the exhibit hall speaking with vendors about how they collect and store consumer information to DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen’s opening speech discussing the e-mail preference service to the DMA’s executive board presumably expelling companies (or is it a single company?) that didn’t comply with the Privacy Promise.

The DMA and industry leaders, however, are sending the wrong signal to the American people and Congress in their slow response. First off, the Privacy Promise was announced two years ago but put into effect just this summer. The DMA still won’t tell us if it’s one member or more that it took action against or what exactly that action was, and two poorly worded press releases don’t help the situation (see story, page 2). The DMA keeps calling on the industry to get busy, yet it’s dragging its feet, too.

A campaign informing the public how and why direct marketers use consumer information is at least six months away, Wientzen told DM News, and the effort will require a great deal of money – $50 million to $75 million if you ask Howard Draft of DraftWorldwide (see story, page 2). All that’s out the door, though, when a presidential candidate makes privacy a year 2000 campaign issue, and you know what kind of media frenzy will ensue then. We’re going to be dragged back 20 years to the days of mass mailings and nontargeted solicitations.

The DMA has a new logo for members to display. Why not put some meaning into the symbol and brand it into a version of the Good Housekeeping seal? If used on every direct mail letter, catalog, bill, insert, co-op and package sent out each year, that’s billions of free

reinforcements that this industry is doing the right thing. Customer relationship marketing and one-to-one relationships benefit the marketer and the consumer. Self-regulation can work. Let’s not act like we’re doing something wrong.

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