I have been a member of The Direct Marketing Association for many years. I feel I owe the association a lot, because I won a scholarship to the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation Collegiate Institute back in 1980. Attending that program introduced me to an area of marketing that only occupied ten pages of one textbook in my marketing education at College. It also landed me in my first job in the industry (I was recruited by a company at the session). I've attended DMA conferences for years as both a vendor and as a purchaser of direct marketing service.
My wife and I started our company eighteen years ago, and when we launched our email marketing product SubscriberMail, we had strong hopes that the DMA was going to be our industry advocate. I feel this is one area where we were wrong. At that time under the leadership of former DMA president Bob Wientzen, the association took the most ludicious, and damaging position about the definition of unsolicited email. His definition defied best practices, and made the industry look evil.
For years the rapidly growing digital segment of the industry was ignored. Back in 2004 at the Annual Conference in New Orleans I posted about how the DMA was making a big mistake by not getting involved with our end of the industry. When the DMA initially approached it they purchased the Association for Interactive Marketing (interestingly enough the associations web site still is up). They all but decimated it in a couple of years. Recently they purchase the Email Experience Council. It is one of several email entities in the market, but it's relevancy isn't clear to me even though we spend thousands of dollars to be a sponsor. In the meantime, numerous organizations shuch ans AdTech and OMMA have displaced the association as outlets for digital vendors.
On several occasions, over the years, I have contacted the association about industry advocacy, only to find a complete lack of understanding on the part of association executives. The best example of this is several years ago when multiple states were introducing ridiculous laws related to email under the veil of child protection. I was involved with the lobbying efforts of the ESPC and asked he DMA for support. They referred me to a Lobbyist who in a phone call talked to me about postal issues. I finely said this isn't postal,it's email, and she informed me that she did not think she could help.
As a company each year we participate in the organiztions Annual Conference. Participating in a trade event is an expensive endeavour. The DMA it seems has gone out of it's way to create multiple expensive events and has done little to join the digital components of the industry with the mainstream vendors. In fact, at the annual conference in Atlanta it was so bad that my friend Bill McCloskey of Email Data Source dubbed the area they relegated us to as "the digital ghetto. Many attendees at the show were unaware that there even was a special area set aside for te digital vendors, and never visited. This despite the high exhibit fees charged by DMA.
I'm the years I've been a member DMA has never reached out to me as a member until a week ago when I received a voice mail from an automated dialing system asking me for my proxy. DMA has never worried about proxies in the past. The association board could basically do anything they wanted and members didn't really get involved in the internal politics of the organization - so why now?
A month or so I started receiving emails and reading about a quest by DMA board member Gerry Pike about a movement he was starting to bring change to the association. Gerry made some great points about the organizations relevancy to the membership, and raising the issue of the outrageous salary paid to DMA President John Greco that was never approved by the entire DMA board, but by a compensation committee that Greco himself sat on (far above averages for similar-sized associations). Pike also makes the point that the slate of Directors put forth at the meeting is not open to nominations from the floor. I've never heard of an organization where members don't have the right to openly nominate and discuss the merits of Board candidates.
Pike's point is simple - we can no longer just rubber stamp the association managment's plan - members have the right to raise these issues at the board meeting. You can read extensive details about Gerry's plans and approach on his webstie A Better DMA. I urge you to consider sending Jerry your proxy. You can click here for a copy and instructions for sending it in. My hope is that the DMA really starts to listen to its members. Many of us are tired of spending large amounts with the association and getting little in return. I also hope that the DMA does not use some parliamentary or political loophole to try to stifle Gerry’s efforts.