Commentary

Be Glad There Is A DMA

Bill McCLoskey is mad as hell. Coming off a recent trade show, Bill, CEO of Email Data Source, Inc., commented on what he sees as poor performance by various trade organizations on behalf of their memberships.a href=http://publications.mediapost.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.showTodaysArticle&art_type=32>(MediaPost's E-Mail Insider, 11/16). Bill reports that he's frustrated that trade organizations seem more interested in organizing trade shows than running organizations.

Bill's right on one count--associations need to be proactive in supporting their industries. And guess what--the DMA is! We're taking many actions on behalf of our members and the direct marketing practice on exactly the issues that have Bill so mad!

So I thought a response to Bill's recent column provided us with a great opportunity to talk about the new DMA and everything we've been doing. We just launched a new brand, and are focusing more than ever on the interactive space. In fact, we recently assigned a vice president to a newly created position dedicated to working with our members on interactive and emerging media issues.

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We're keeping busy in our role as advocates, too. We're supporting industry standards for responsible marketing, promoting relevance as the key to reaching consumers with desirable offers, and providing cutting-edge research.

The DMA is diligent in our efforts to ensure that legitimate e-mail marketing messages are able to get through. This is why we have been advocating strongly--for more than a year now--for our members to get on board with the authentication, accreditation and reputation systems that are being adopted by the major e-mail box providers--and why just last month, we made authentication a requirement for all DMA members using e-mail for customer outreach.

Our guide to e-mail best practices was specifically designed to help our members get their e-mails seen by existing and potential customers for the good of all marketers. This type of proactive outreach establishes our industry as taking the lead in responsible online marketing, and will lead to less restrictive legislative action overall.

When calls for legislation or regulation have come, the DMA has repeatedly worked with regulatory agencies to voice out concern that concepts like registries containing valid e-mails are irresistible to hackers and the organized crime rings that are increasingly proliferating deceptive and fraudulent e-mails. We share the goals of protecting children from receiving unwanted and inappropriate solicitations, especially when solicitations involve the sale of tobacco, alcohol and pornography--although we are cognizant that the current implementation of these two registries has had the unintended consequence of raising significant issues for marketers of all types.

The DMA works every day to tell the world about the value that direct marketing brings to consumers. Our members exemplify the highest standards in responsible marketing, and we take that message every day to policymakers, opinion leaders and the media. Unfortunately, bad actors abuse the freedoms and opportunities afforded by an open marketplace, especially in the rapidly changing world of e-commerce. Consumers have real and legitimate concerns about the proliferation of phishing, spoofing and misleading e-mails that flood their inboxes. To keep and strengthen that trust, we must work together as an industry to put an end to these practices--that is the best thing we can do to demonstrate our value.

Bottom line is, the DMA has a lot more on its plate than running tradeshows. The DMA produced the AAR White Paper, Search Technical White Paper and E-mail Best Practices. We developed online solicitation and data security guidelines. The DMA actively engaged with the Federal Trade Commission and Capitol Hill on online advertising; just last week, we participated in the World Summit on Information Society.

The DMA has worked on all requests from the FTC on e-mail marketing, most recently on keeping the 10-day opt-out rule. We were the only organization to work with the FCC to obtain and make economically available a list of wireless domains. We called on Congress to put more money into online enforcement and to give the FTC cross-border fraud authority to address offshore rogue e-marketing.

Are there issues that we may disagree about from time to time within the industry? Absolutely! But the bulk of the time we do agree, and consensus is a powerful tool in the business of advocacy, whether on the Hill or in the press. We need to work together in the areas of broad agreement to fend off overly burdensome regulation or unfair criticism.

Of course we provide education and networking opportunities for our members and the industry. They are essential to improving results throughout the entire direct marketing process. DMA events and conferences are a pillar of our mission, and we remain committed to maintaining the success of our events.

I would challenge Bill to also use his bully pulpit to push marketers to do the right things for their businesses and industry. In the case of e-mail marketers, we cannot reiterate enough that voluntary authentication will likely prevent government forcing a one-size-fits-all authentication scheme on us.

Rather than getting mad, the industry needs to channel its energy constructively and rally for marketplace solutions.

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