New DMA chair stresses continuity, legislative action

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G. Steven Dapper was named chairman of the Direct Marketing Association last month, succeeding Eugene R. Raitt, who resigned in April. He is president and founder of agency hawkeye, and former chairman-CEO of agencies Wunderman and Rapp Collins. BtoB asked Dapper about his goals for DMA during his term of office, which will run until October 2011. BtoB: Because you're coming in as DMA chairman midway through the year, your term will run for 18 months, or until the DMA 2011 conference and expo. What goals have you set for yourself over that period of time? Dapper: One goal, of course, is to bring some continuity to the association. What will happen is that both myself and Don McKenzie [CEO of Direct Group and newly named DMA vice chairman] will serve through DMA 2010 in San Francisco, in October, and be renominated for the next year, with Don in line for chairman for 2011-12. Beyond that, I want to strengthen our emphasis on digital marketing. DMA and the industry overall have been a little slow to address digital marketing and to understand the magnitude of it. And then there are our legislative and lobbying efforts. DMA has traditionally been a leader here among marketing organizations, and that's a huge part of what the DMA offers. We're spending between $5 million and $6 million of our members' dues every year fighting for them in Washington, D.C. BtoB: What are your major legislative and lobbying goals? For example, what do you make of the new law in Colorado, known as HB 10-1193, that that would make it possible to collect sales taxes on online purchases? Dapper: It's very scary, and it's No. 1 for us right now. The state is desperate for money, but many states don't understand the number of people direct marketing employs locally. If they're worried about unemployment, why do something that increases unemployment? Then there's the issue of behaviorally targeted advertising, and the industry's efforts to regulate itself. We were there first in fighting against government regulation of online advertising, and we'll continue that fight. BtoB: Among the efforts of your predecessor, Gene Raitt, was to open up the DMA board to more people and opinions, which served to alleviate some of the acrimony among the membership that developed last year. How will you continue that bridge-building? Dapper: Having worked with different industries within the DMA, and coming out of multichannel marketing solutions, gives me some insight into helping assemble the right board, going forward, where everyone is involved, not just five or six people running things—which was a big issue in the past. This year, we're making sure everyone is aware of how open the DMA is. I'm very excited about where we are, and in bringing everyone along on the ride. BtoB: Raitt also felt that the committee and operating council structure of the DMA needed addressing, and that perhaps some disciplines, such as direct mail and cataloging, were not as adequately addressed as possible. What are your thoughts about DMA's membership organization? Dapper: I think everything could use some tweaking, even if it's currently running well. I think to some degree, however, that there were too many councils and committees. We need to look at whether we have the right committees in place or combine some. All of it should be analyzed. Another issue is that some committee members felt they weren't being listened to. If you're going to have a committee, you have to make sure it has an important job to do, then to listen to them when they come back with recommendations. Too often, after one or two years, committee members were asking themselves, “Why are we doing this?” BtoB: To what extent will the DMA address b-to-b marketing? Dapper: Much better than in the past, but still not enough. Some of our sessions at the annual conference and expo do cut across both b-to-b and b-to-c marketing, but we need more b-to-b emphasis. In the past, b-to-b was always the stepchild when it came to communications, advertising and marketing. But it's growing in importance. For example, eight years ago when hawkeye was founded, just 5% of our business was b-to-b. Now it's 65% to 70%. BtoB: The previous full-time president-CEO, John A. Greco, resigned in February. Can you provide some insight into how the search process for a permanent president-CEO is going? Dapper: It's going well. We've had 175 people who either raised their hands or who we contacted. We've interviewed 10 people so far, and we're seeing another six. There are good people out there, and the goal is to have that person in and settled by the first of September. I see no reason why that won't happen. BtoB: Does this seem like an exceptionally long selection process? Dapper: We want to make sure we get the right person, so it's not too long a period in order to do that. And, with our interim President-CEO Bob Allen in place, and with a stable 46-person board, we can afford a longer vetting process. In a way, the DMA used to be an old boys club, but half the candidates we're looking at for president-CEO are women. M
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