DMA must weed out rotten apples

Brassed Off Britain seriously wounded the direct marketing industry, so rather than seek urgent medical attention, our industry hid under a bush hoping that, in time, the wounds would heal themselves.

Come spring, the DM industry would be behaving as if nothing had happened. But the scars remain, and Alan Mitchell’s response to the DMA’s survey of consumer attitudes and experiences was refreshingly candid and insightful (MW March 17).

Direct marketing’s wounds will not heal until we face up to the challenges raised in Brassed Off Britain. To do this will be painful and requires a great deal of soul-searching.

The industry has not gone far enough to put its house in order. Brassed Off Britain presented the perfect opportunity to take action that would resonate both within the industry and with the public. At the time, I was aghast by a lack of any real response from our industry and the lack of any real leadership to drive action.

We were easy prey and the BBC did a great hatchet job. There can be little doubt that there are some horrific examples of direct mail (as there are good and bad in every industry), and boy did the BBC make the most of our lack of (self-) regulation. It was men against boys.

The DMA has to take some responsibility for the work that gives our industry a bad name. Yet to commission research which is at best on the “spin-cycle” does not make it appear as impartial as it should be.

So what would I like to see done? First, the industry must publicly admit there are issues it needs to tackle. Consumers should then be able to name and shame the miscreants, with details posted on the DMA website.

The DMA should employ a telegenic front man or woman to act as its public face and win over a cynical public. No easy task, but one we need to face.

However, without stricter policing and proper governance, we find ourselves in a situation where, as Private Frazer used to say in Dad’s Army, “we’re doomed”.

I’m not sure that Captain Mainwaring is the answer. Any volunteers?

Jonathan Clark

Co-founder and chairman

Clark McKay & Walpole

London W1

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