As I sit in the San Diego Airport waiting to go home I have just spent three nice days in one of America’s nicest cities. I have attended my 22nd DMA conference. This membership organization that began as the Direct Mail Association became the Direct Mail Marketing Association (DMMA) then and now the DMA.
Like many associations the industry conferences is the primary revenue source. After years of growth in attendance, vendor participation and offerings, the 2008 DMA saw a significant drop in all three areas. It took place in Las Vegas 2 months after the financial crisis ensued. In additional the DMA reduced its staff substantially and I still feel bad for former DMA employees I know for a long time who’ve yet to find new jobs.
My thoughts as I headed out to San Diego centered a testy proxy fight between a DMA board members and the DMA board itself. Many of our clients and my colleagues decided not to attend this year for various reasons, expense being the primary reason given. I think that those folks should regret their decision not to attend.
The DMA still has its feet firmly implanted in direct mail and old habits die hard. But the leadership of the DMA has recognized the move to new marketing channels and has made strides in making information and learning on new marketing channel a focus. The proxy fight was settled and I for one was happy with the points brought up and the resolution. The DMA is an organization that can well use some pot stirring. And the exhibit hall while a nice place to see old friends and associates but walking around the floor makes me feel like I am caught in my own ground-hog day moment. It’s not working and feels outdated.
We direct marketing folks like to cite the measurability of the direct marketing process. We are even a bit smug about it. For what reason I do not know as the rest of the advertising world has always considered direct marketers red-headed stepchildren as long as I have been involved. But I did hear a lot of honest talk (particularly at the DMA Global Leaders Forum held on Monday) questioning if direct marketers are measuring the right things when it comes to web analytics and e-commerce in general.
It’s fine to have all these cool tools but if the wrong things are being measured or the measurements are not indicative of what is really happening we are drinking our own Kool-Aid. I think it is great that these kinds of questions are asked and answered – or at least they are trying to be answered.
I read Ad Age, Adweek, DM News, and occasionally Brandweek, and more and more the stories are similar. All marketers and marketing agencies direct and otherwise are trying to do the same things for their clients –help acquire and retain more customers. The marketing world has been turned on its head in the past nearly two years. Lower marketing budgets, higher accountability and demand for better ROI have changed the landscape for ever more. I am more optimistic that the DMA is heading on the right path and can and will remain a relevant organization.