For decades, direct marketing was a red-headed stepchild to Madison Avenue, which allowed practitioners to enjoy their success quietly. Now that general advertisers have come over to the measurable side, a much bigger spotlight has been trained on direct marketing. Ironically, the press coverage hasn’t grown that much more accurate or any friendlier. Direct marketers, it would seem, do not deserve the benefit of the doubt.
That’s a huge problem, and it’s driving our future with regard to data availability, response rates and legislation. When an article in the San Jose Mercury News characterizes the Direct Marketing Association’s response—and that of its members—to the recently launched Catalog Choice opt-out service as resistant, readers make the assumption that all direct marketers turn a deaf ear to consumers’ wishes.
Check out what PopMatters blogger Rob Horning had to say after reading a BusinessWeek story on Catalog Choice:
But retailers know that people say one thing … and do another when they, in the privacy of their own homes, are confronted with pretty pictures and insinuating fantasies. Knowing this, nothing short of a restraining order would stop the retailers from sending the catalogs. … Hence, if people don’t want catalogs, they probably need to stop shopping.
No benefit of the doubt there, even though there are plenty of catalog firms that already maintain internal opt-out lists. And so far, I’ve seen no follow-up story from Horning to give credit to the catalogers that have begun working with Catalog Choice. Or, for that matter, to any of the DMA member companies using its revamped DMAChoice service. And what about the lack of info in these articles about the DMA’s Commitment to Consumer Choice program? While it wasn’t a consumer-facing initiative, its strict requirements will improve consumers’ ability to control the amount and type of mail they receive.