Celebrating 25 Years of Change
By Alicia Orr Suman
Spring 1978. The first issue of ZIP magazine hit the mail. And on the cover of that predecessor to this magazine were the faces of men and women—"Some Leaders in the Direct Marketing Field," stated the headline.
The features listed in the Table of Contents of that premier issue (right) have an eerie resemblance to the subjects we now cover 25 years later:
• What Is the Future of the Postal Service?
• Personal Privacy in an Information Society
• Facsimile Machines, For the Office of the Future
• Computer Networks: The New Information Robots
• Alternate Delivery: Post-Mortem for the USPS?
• How Can They Sell My Name?
Many of the above-mentioned articles have a foundation in technology. While this is not an article about technology, there's no doubt that technology undeniably has been the linchpin of change in the direct marketing industry in the past 25 years. Indeed, it has touched every facet of the field.
Consider just a few developments: the personal computer; database modeling and analytics; the predictive dialer and interactive voice response; digital photography; desktop publishing; and of course, the Internet.
Mike Hail, special vice president of Yankelovich and the founder of the IRent America file, puts it succinctly: "I hesitate to say that technology is the foundation for all of my comments, but sometimes it feels true. The presence of [marketing] information is possible due to the incredible increase in storage capacity for each dollar of capital expenditure."
Russell Kern, president, Kern Direct, concurs, adding that in the last 25 years, "The computer has been the greatest change-agent in our industry. From punch cards, to mag tape, to FTP sites for data exchanges, data continues to be the single most important aspect of the business. And our ability to manage and manipulate it continues to increase and get simpler and cheaper."