This week at the DMA annual conference, new CEO Larry Kimmel was introduced to the DMA community. He's nine weeks on the job, and takes the reigns in the midst of an evolution in the direct marketing space. He seemed to welcome the challenge."The free economy empowered by advertising has changed the world," he said. Websites such as Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, and others provide real value to consumers because their models are ad supported. It's the DMA's job to protect people's privacy and security while making sure that this economy continues to grow.
The DMA needs to find a balance about what's right for consumers and what's right for business. He touted the new "advertising option icon" being developed with numerous trade organizations, which would accompany online advertisements. Consumers can mouseover the icon, which will explain why the specific ad was served to that specific customer, and allows consumers to opt-out of future ads.
In addition, the new reality of marketing is one where consumers expect a level of personalization and relevance. If marketers don't provide that, they will not survive. This makes direct marketing efforts more important than ever. Kimmel said that in his opinion, mass communication never really existed. "Every ad or communication is interpreted one person at a time." Marketers need to continue on their journey toward a one-to-one relationship, aided by new technologies and business practices.
He also added that it's time for companies to start thinking differently. Even names need to change to reflect their impact on customers. "I think we need to change the characterization of behavioral targeting to personalized messaging," he said in one example. This was echoed on the DMA show floor, where Alterian rebranded its campaign management tools as engagement management tools.
Kimmel's relaxed tone and personable presentation ended with a show of appreciation to his parents, who were seated in the first row. Kimmel's father was celebrating his 85th birthday, and the crowd of thousands acknowledged him with a nice round of applause. It was a personal moment and a nice way to end the opening keynote, perhaps illustrating the DMA's move to be more approachable than in previous years. Whatever the motive behind it, it was a nice gesture and left everyone feeling good to start the event.