Wientzen Says Anthrax Scare Won't Affect Holiday Spending

CHICAGO — H. Robert Wientzen, president/CEO of the Direct Marketing Association, told a packed crowd at the group's fall show yesterday that the anthrax scare would not affect the holiday spending of most consumers.

Wientzen, who spoke after a lavish performance-art production by the artist Zoe, said the DMA has been conducting surveys in recent weeks to gauge consumer confidence in the mail.

“And in our latest survey, 59 percent of consumers told us that recent events would not impact their holiday spending, which is good news, of course, for us,” Wientzen said.

Wientzen also said that Draft Worldwide also just completed research to assess the attitudes and reactions of U.S. consumers to various forms of direct marketing in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Overall, he said, the finding should reassure the direct marketing industry because it concluded that most consumers are living their lives as usual, which includes opening their mail and making the purchases they need and want.

Wientzen called on direct and interactive marketers to speak out on issues such as postal reform, privacy, remote sales taxation and telemarketing before these issues affect the industry's bottom line even more.

“With our nation in an economic downturn as well as an obvious state of distraction, we cannot forget about the essential issues that affect the growth of our industry and of our country,” Wientzen said.

Wientzen also said the DMA is releasing to its members a white paper that found that while there is “legitimate reason for concern, the impact of the anthrax crisis on our business has been negligible so far.”

Wientzen said the DMA has been working with the Advertising Council and other leading advertising and marketing associations on a series of public service announcements.

So far, Wientzen said, the Ad Council has produced eight spots, and there are several more to come. The aim is to bolster patriotism and overall confidence.

He also said that for the first time the Ad Council is turning to members of the advertising and marketing industries to support the back-end costs of the advertisements. In this campaign the Ad Council will use direct marketing, including direct mail, to raise funds.

“And that is where we come in,” Wientzen said. “I am asking DMA members to support the Ad Council's efforts to fund these vitally important public service announcements by donations as well as your direct marking expertise, services and supplies.”

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