At the Direct Marketing Association's Annual Conference and Exhibition last year, the keynoter was rock musician Bret Michaels. This year it was Twitter founder Biz Stone.
The decision to bring in a keynote speaker who actually represents a social platform was an indicator that the DMA is taking the discipline seriously. But it's not the only place where the DMA, which has been an ongoing voice in the privacy debate, is diving in: The organization announced the addition of Yvette Lui, director-global marketing solutions at Facebook, to its board. Already on the board is Arjan Dijk, director-global acquisition marketing at Google.
"The fact that Facebook wants to join Google on the board is an important statement that says they understand that we're the place where they should be communicating," said DMA CEO Larry Kimmel.
Moreover, the organization has opened a new division in Silicon Valley, where it will host a listening tour among "accountable marketers" for the next 45 days.
Mr. Kimmel is working to change the DMA's perception among industry and non-industry players who think that the industry is an old-school force behind less-than-targeted messages. "The world has an under-appreciation for the disciplines and it's under the false notion that 's it's channel-centric," he said. "That's even the case in our community."
The message of this year's conference therefore is that direct enables real-time marketing, described by Mr. Kimmel as "speed to market, access to information faster than anyone else, competitive advantage." He added that when you ask companies where they are in real-time marketing, there are still only a few that are where they should be.
Mr. Stone, who appeared via video, began with a story about the early days at Twitter and his surprise at how Jet Blue, one of the first companies to sign on, used the site to transform the customer-engagement model. The company learned by mistake, he said, when its social media executive tweeted that he was frustrated by his unsuccessful effort to push press-release links via Twitter.
"[The executive] sent a tweet that said, 'What do you people want?' and there was an overwhelming response [along the lines of ] 'That's what we wanted to hear,'" he said. In essence, Mr. Stone said, consumers were happy to see the executive drop the PR shield and interact with them as people. "It resonated highly with folks, when they switched the strategy from pushing out PR messages to interacting."