CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- The Direct Marketing Association today will e-mail a list of guidelines to its members to help them cope with the uncertainties created by the heightened fear of anthrax.
The 13 guidelines, developed by the DMA after discussions with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and bioterrorist experts, were created in response to members' inquiries about what they should do in light of increasing reports of anthrax being spread through the mail.
One of the points the DMA suggests is that members temporarily delay their business-to-business mailings "because of potential logjams in receiving mailrooms."
Even as the DMA prepared to release its list, Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office received a letter that reportedly tested positive for anthrax. During the past week, other anthrax-contaminated letters have been received by General Electric Co.'s NBC and American Media offices in Florida.
A photo editor for American Media's tabloid The Sun died last week after being exposed to the toxin.
'Not warranted by the facts'
"The first thing [marketers] should do is not panic and not repeat unfounded rumors," said DMA President H. Robert Wientzen. "Most of the concerns and issues that are being talked about are really not warranted by the facts. The facts are that it is a practical impossibility to infect a large amount of material with the anthrax bacteria and that it's probably not a very viable way of disposing of a large amount of anthrax."
Despite Mr. Wientzen's belief that anthrax rumors are overshadowing the facts, he said he realizes that perceived fear could be as great a danger as fear based in reality.
"We do understand that just the threat of [anthrax poisoning] could pose a problem," he said.
Mr. Wientzen had not heard of any DMA members canceling or postponing direct-to-consumer mail efforts, although some marketers are concerned about lower response rates and are holding back on business-to-business mailings "because some [companies'] mail rooms are jammed up and it's likely to be slowed down" due to extra precautions being taken to analyze incoming mail.
It is too soon to tell wether the DMA, which revised its 2001 direct-marketing spending numbers after the Sept. 11 attacks, will revise those figures again due to the anthrax scare. Mr. Wientzen said he thinks that's unlikely, because "the impact will be short-lived."
"We will take another look at it next week, but right now I don't see the impact being big enough to impact those rather large numbers," Mr. Wientzen said.
The DMA will publicly release industry spending figures at its annual conference in Chicago beginning Oct. 27.
Below is an excerpt of the DMA's e-mail to its members:
Member companies and all affiliated direct mailing companies should consider undertaking the following activities in light of the recent anthrax activities:
- Avoid using plain envelopes. Printed envelopes, especially those using color are less likely to appear like the hand-prepared envelopes involved in the incidents so far.
- Use a clear and identifiable return address. Consider including your company logo in the address.
- Consider including a toll-free phone number and/or URL address on envelopes.
- Utilize an e-mail and/or telemarketing campaign in conjunction with a letter to notify consumers that mail will be coming.
- Temporarily consider briefly delaying Business-to-Business mailings because of potential logjams in receiving mailrooms.
- Utilize The DMA Member logo to show that you are in elite company.
- Contact your lettershop and other production services to stress the importance of security.
- Consider performing a security audit throughout your entire operation.
- Evaluate your campaign approach and consider that personalization temporarily is less likely to create increases in response rates.
- If you are involved in production services, know who your customers are.
- Reinforce your existing internal guidelines about forwarding press and consumer calls to appropriate internal channels.
- Educate mailroom employees about identifying and dealing with possible threats.
- Utilize The DMA as press resource. Feel free to forward press calls to 212-768-7277.