Five Questions With New DMA CEO Lawrence Kimmel

Chief Goal: Communicate Relevancy and Importance of Direct Marketing

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NEW YORK ( -- After a six-month review process, the Direct Marketing Association has tapped a former agency head as its new CEO. Lawrence Kimmel, former chairman-CEO of Grey Direct Global Network, is the only agency CEO to hold the chief executive role at the DMA. Mr. Kimmel, who will be based in New York, will replace interim President-CEO Robert Allen on Aug. 2.

Lawrence Kimmel
Lawrence Kimmel
Before joining Grey Direct, where he ran the agency from 2000 to 2008, he spent seven years in senior management at Draft Worldwide and was also the founder and president of Unimark, a direct marketing, promotion and advertising agency. Mr. Kimmel spoke with Ad Age about a variety of topics including what DMA members need to be doing more of and what the role of the DMA president should be.

Ad Age: What will your agency experience allow you to bring to the table?

Mr. Kimmel: Being client-focused. I'm here to serve members.

Ad Age: What major cause will you look to push?

Mr. Kimmel: Marketing has never been more exciting or challenging. The demand for information, education and collaboration with legislation is so important to the marketing community, and somebody has to help with all of those issues. The world is changing pretty fast and for someone to shine a light on the best practitioners, new technologies, new techniques and on the critical governmental affairs issues is so essential and I want to help spread the word about that. And I want to make it clear that direct marketing and the DMA can do that.

Ad Age: What do you see as the biggest issue for the industry?

Mr. Kimmel: For the world to understand how relevant and important [direct marketers] are. We as an industry had the foresight years ago to understand that behavioral information and statistically quantifiable and measurable results would be the best go-to market strategy for marketers. And the world has come to agree, so all of SEM, e-mail marketing, display advertising, mobile and iPad advertising are direct response or direct marketing. We won the competition for best go-to-market strategy. And yet some people don't understand our relevance and probably have an association or an antiquated idea of what we do. It's important for people to understand the crux of direct marketing are what everyone desires, and we are the people who have understood that for years. Changing the mindset of people takes time.

Ad Age: What will you demand out of members, marketers and agencies, in terms of what they should be doing better? What can they improve upon?

Mr. Kimmel: It's a wiki world. No one has all of the answers and now, more than ever, we have to be more collaborative in figuring out how to do things. We're not pigeonholed in terms of a tactical communications technique, a geographic approach or an organizational structure. We invite the participation of our members, and greater collaboration between members, agency, suppliers or marketers -- large and small, from big markets and small -- really is a differentiated advantage here and I would encourage greater collaboration and innovation. We have a lot of challenges and marketing is infinitely more complicated than when I started. And figuring out the best go-to-market strategy as we go forward and the best techniques and technologies is not an easy task.

Ad Age: The DMA recently posted a loss of $4 million in 2009. What are your thoughts on the future of the association?

Mr. Kimmel: This year will be better already. The board and interim DMA President Bob Allen have done a fabulous job of strengthening the financials. There is no doubt that we will continue to provide ever-increasing values to members and there is no doubt, in my opinion, that if your provide value to members, the money will come and we will be very strong economically and give back to our association members. It's all about providing better value than they can get anywhere else.

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