Live From The Direct Media Co-op: DMA Fears Do-Not-Mail Legislation

With the impact of user-generated content such as blogs and YouTube at consumers’ fingertips, the future of direct mail is still The Direct Marketing Association’s biggest concern.

That’s because with consumers dictating what they want to read and when they want to read it, legislation such as do-not-mail could affect direct marketers more so than do-not-call initiatives, said DMA chairman Markus Wilhelm.

Speaking Wednesday at the Direct Media Client Conference and Co-op in White Plains, NY, Wilhelm said the fight to keep states, and ultimately the U.S. Government, from passing do-not-mail legislation could cost the trade group $10 million this year.

Wilhelm said he initially was not concerned because in 2005, just Hawaii, Missouri, and New York had drafted legislation, and Illinois followed suit last year. But since he became DMA’s chairman this year, 15 states are looking to pass legislation that would allow consumers to keep direct offers from their mailboxes.

“This makes me worry–new rules are going to make a difference in how we do our jobs,” Wilhelm said. “We are going to have to figure out how to deal with this.” The DMA has responded to proposed state legislations by forming a coalition with an unlikely ally, the U.S. Postal Service, to lobby at the state and U.S. levels about the importance of the medium, and how legislation can hurt marketers.

But Wilhelm contends that technology is part of the reason consumers are asking their representatives to push for do-not-mail legislation. With that in mind, Wilhelm said that marketers need to focus more on what channels consumers prefer rather than sending messages in an irrelevant format.

“The days of push marketing are over,” Wilhelm said. “There is a change in consumer behavior because broadband has made so much more information available and so many more options for consumers to act on. Catalogs and direct mail will both be around forever, but consumer perception has changed and we need to become early adopters of this technology.”