DMA Conference 2011, Boston: The Opportunistic Americans

DMA Conference 2011, Boston: The Opportunistic Americans

13th October 2011

This is a guest post by Monique Rutten. Monique Rutten is the member affairs manager of the Dutch DMA since 2006. From October first 2011 she will write about her work experiences while living in New York. On behalf of the Dutch DMA members she will dig up marketing knowledge and investigate marketing issues. She visited the DMA Conference 2011 for us and reports back on it.

May I present to you, Lawrence Kimmel, CEO of the Direct Marketing Association in the US (DMA). Kimmel was the show host of this year’s DMA conference in Boston. The conference can be best described by two buzz words: meaningful marketing & real time marketing. Let’s hear what Kimmel has to say about the conference:


During the openings speech Kimmel proves that he’s not only the CEO of DMA USA but also a born marketer. He makes the crowd feels proud of themselves: “You’re a lucky to be a direct marketer living in 2011”. Result; an enthusiastic and eager audience at the beginning of a fully booked conference week.

What’s striking about the direct marketing industry?

It’s the first time I visit a DMA conference in the United States. I work at the Dutch DMA and attend a lot of marketing events in Holland. So what’s the thing you’re doing while sitting in an American conference room with 5000 marketers? Compare. What are the similarities and differences between the Dutch and American Direct Marketing industry? Well, both industries have the conviction that this industry is booming. Time is now! Due to the changing technology, data driven marketing is the marketing of the future.

In both countries there’s the fight about the ad spends. The never ending battle between mass marketing and direct marketing. The direct marketers believe they deserve a bigger piece of the ad spending pie. And they support this conviction this year with a publication by the DMA in The New York Times (“A bright forecast for direct marketing”). Forecasters are predicting that, despite the concerns about the direction of the economy, spending for direct marketing advertising will continue to grow: according to the forecast, spending for direct marketing ads (like direct mail, catalogs, television, telephone marketing, Internet marketing and social networking) will reach $163 billion this year, up with 5.6% from $154.4 billion in 2010. Total ad spending will increase with 3,4% compared to 2010.

Another similarity is that even when I’m 3652 miles separated from Amsterdam and the Dutch DMA, I hear exactly the same two words buzzing around in this industry: meaningful marketing and especially real time marketing. Coincidence? Or a result of the globalization of marketing?

What’s striking about the given knowledge?

Direct marketing captures many marketing disciplines; social marketing, telemarketing, direct mail and so on. The speakers at the conference no longer focus on one discipline. The key factor is THE CUSTOMER. As a company you can no longer be driven by technology or products. The customer is the driving force. During a key note speech a big shot marketer admits that it takes many years to change this insight. It demands a different attitude of the employees, different software and most importantly a board that believes in a long term strategy. Kind of a challenge in a shareholders’ century.

So mainly no focus on one marketing discipline. Wait, there’s one thing that the marketer really should get started with: mobile marketing. Some figures on the American consumer and mobile: in America 50% of the population will have a smartphone at the end of 2011. It’s the new Swiss army knife. 78% of the American go online before purchasing a service or product. The funny thing is that surfing the web on mobile phones peeks during the weekend because people search for the best price outside the shop during ‘offline shopping’. The figure that I can give you on American companies and mobile is that only 20% is ready for this mobile consumer by having a website compatible for mobile. It’s unknown what percentage companies have a website or online shop ready for tablets. So, the advice is not only to start with a mobile website. Also make sure that your online shop or site is compatible for tablets.

What’s striking about the conference visitor?

Many marketers took the time and effort to travel to Boston. The conference rooms were crowded especially when the lectures were on social (engagement) or cross media. If you wanted some peace and quiet then you visited a session on privacy or legislation. I’ve been to these particular sessions and the given information was on a high level and very important. Despite this, only twenty people out of 5000 visitors took the effort to visit these lectures. Strange, I thought (and unlike the curiosity about these topics in Holland). For real time marketing you need data. To collect data you have to know what you can and cannot do as a marketer. And more importantly, to give real time marketing a fair change in the future, you have to know what kind of legal proposals are submitted or are in preparation. Real time marketing with the possible restrictions on – for example – placing cookies provides big challenges for the future. I don’t understand why marketers visiting DMA 2011 seems to ignore this quite important rule to play the game of marketing. Maybe it’s their enthusiasm to be a marketer in the 21th century? Or maybe it’s their opportunism?

What’s for me striking about the time we live in?

I don’t want to end this article with a pedantic review on the conference. It was great to be an attendee and it’s amazing to see what role marketing and technology has and will have for society. Someone who can explain much better than me what amazing things technology can do for society is Louis CK. Sit back, enjoy and think about what innovative and fast moving century we’re living in:


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