With a general election due sometime in the next 12 months, attention is starting to fall on what each of the parties now stands for. In the wake of economic collapse and the expenses scandal, there is a sense that everything is up for grabs, but that also that it is harder than ever to know what to expect from an MP.
That could never be said about Mark Roy, chief executive of The REaD Group and newly elected chairman of the DMA’s Data Council. “They knew what they were going to get with me,” he readily admits. First joining the Council three years ago, he went all of five minutes at his first meeting before offering an opinion. “Later on, somebody told me that they had spent a whole year as a new member without speaking,” says Roy.
Like the political parties, he believes that the data industry is going through major changes which require a clear response. “I have a view – some may disagree with it – but I am clear about what needs to be done about the industry and its future. We all know it is a difficult time,” he states.
Council members have given Roy a mandate at a time when the DMA has concluded a major overhaul of its structure. “It is not unfair to say the Association has been lacking direction for some time. The current changes are bold and strong and what it needs, even if it is too early to tell whether they will work,” he says.
Roy has known DMA chairman David Metcalfe and deputy chairman Fedelma Good for a long time and has well-established relationships with chiefs of staff Mike Lordan and Robert Keitch. So any plans he lays out for the Data Council are not only likely to be aligned with the Association’s strategy, but also have a strong chance of being in the broader interest of the marketing industry.
So what does he intend to do? “In the short term, the biggest threat we face is the removal of the edited Electoral Roll. That is very live and we need to put together a response,” he says. This was the unexpected (and unwelcome) seventeenth recommendation at the end of Walport Report.
The Data Council is talking to its members and the DMA legal team to draw up an argument against this proposal. Roy believes removal would probably have the reverse effect to that intended, by leading to the creation of poorer targeting data sets that generate more mistargeted communications. It is an example of a situation where the famously well-connected and clubbable Roy is the perfect candidate to argue with regulators and MPs.
His other short-term task is no less complicated. “In this recession, what can we do as a council to help our industry? There are a lot of businesses which are really suffering – many won’t admit it. The risk for the industry, DMA and our council is that fewer players means fewer members,” says Roy.
He points out that of the DMA’s membership, 113 are directly involved with data, with a further 400 having some position in the data market. What is impacting on Data Council members is therefore going to have a big impact on the whole Association.
Unlike the chairmen of most trade body councils, Roy is doing something radical – canvassing the opinions of council members. By asking what their own pain points and issues are, he hopes to be able to represent the industry with proposals have clear backing.
Experience of managing his own business through turbulent times also allows him to be about what is needed. “I think this recession is unlike any other we have been through before. There are many more brands out there trying to survive whose brand value was driven by market share. They are now looking to market in a more effective way using analysis, targeting and suppression,” he says.
It is precisely because companies are looking for better data quality that makes Roy feel it is wrong to be proposing the removal of the edited Electoral Roll.
Kicking direct mail looks like an easy vote winner. Certainly the counter-arguments are complex and do not reduce easily to a 12-word tagline. But any MP thinking of voting to remove this data source has reckoned without Roy.