Just prior to ACCM, MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT caught up with Ramesh Ratan, senior vice president of the New York-based Direct Marketing Association, which with MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT produces the conference. Ratan has worked under John A. Greco Jr., president/CEO of the DMA, for the past two years.
MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT : Can you talk about the first two years under John Greco’s leadership of the Direct Marketing Association?
Ratan: We are pleased with our achievement in finding the common threads across the various channels and identifying the emerging trends. We’ve been successful in conveying the message that direct marketing is a multichannel process and that virtually every marketer is becoming a direct marketer in some capacity.
The members have been extremely supportive of the initiatives DMA set forth in its strategic plan, and we have been dedicated to delivering results for each of the diverse segments. We’ve expanded DMA’s traditional role of representing the interests of business members to include a more inclusive vision that’s more outward looking and supports the creation of an attractive space for all buyers and sellers across the entire direct marketing process.
MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT : What have been the hot-button issues the DMA has dealt with since John became president? Ratan: There is one critical issue the direct marketing community continues to grapple with that I want to focus on here: consumer trust. Consumer trust is the foundation from where several other hot-button issues spring, including privacy and data security. We have the opportunity to engage ourselves in marketing practices that empower the consumer. It’s imperative that marketers use data responsibly and safely in order to cultivate a sense of empowerment that will lead to greater trust. MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT : What pending legislative issues do you see as critical to the industry?
Ratan: Of course DMA continues to push for postal reform. We scored major successes in the past year with floor votes in both the House and the Senate, but we still have far to go to get across the goal line. The conference committee has not formed yet to reconcile the House and Senate bills. We’re watching that situation closely, and of course, will have a lot of work to do to overcome White House concerns about some of the budget issues.
Data security is another issue we continue to watch closely. Right now we are following six major bills in the House and Senate that look at mandating data security standards and notifying consumers in the event that sensitive data is put at risk for fraud or identity theft. It seems likely that bills will pass this year, and our goal is to make sure that a distinction is made between that sensitive personal information and the marketing data that enables businesses and charitable organizations to function successfully in the electronic marketplace.
MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT : In John’s first two years as DMA president, what is DMA most proud of, and what are the main issues that the organization plans to pursue? Ratan: The successful launch of DMA’s new brand identity has been a high point. “The Power of Direct: Relevance. Responsibility. Results” is more than a slogan—it really gets to the heart of what the new DMA is all about. Relevance to the consumer is key in today’s busy world. Everyone appreciates the convenience of information about their specific personal interests, and the ability to get it when, where and how they want it.
Responsibility is the concern of public policy. With care, dedication, and focus, direct offers can always be constructed and delivered in ways that are highly responsible. This is essential to building consumer confidence and public trust—a major challenge for all marketers now and for the future.
Results are what matter in business. Effectively delivering measurable results is what the direct marketing process does best. We want everyone to know it.