DMA Sends Members Guidelines for Anthrax Scare

16 October 2001

The Direct Marketing Association has emailed a thirteen-point series of guidelines to its members on how to handle security issues raised by reports of anthrax being spread through mail.

Drawn up after consultation with the US Postal Inspection Service and bioterrorism experts, the guidelines suggest delaying business-to-business mailings due to backlogs of mail at targeted companies.

“The first thing [marketers] should do is not panic and not repeat unfounded rumors,” stated 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.”

However, there are fears that the scare could affect direct-to-consumer response rates, already hit by the fallout from last month’s terrorist attacks. In particular, the DMA is advising against using unmarked envelopes, a traditional aid to response rates as people open them to find out what is inside.

“The hardest thing we have to do as direct marketers is getting someone to open the envelope,” commented Howard Draft, chairman/chief executive at Chicago’s Draft Worldwide, America’s largest DM agency. “Until this passes, I think we’ll have … a lowering in response rates clients will see.”

The email stated: “Member companies and all affiliated direct mailing companies should consider undertaking the following activities in light of the recent anthrax activities:

(1) 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.

(2) Use a clear and identifiable return address. Consider including your company logo in the address.

(3) Consider including a toll-free phone number and/or URL address on envelopes.

(4) Utilize an e-mail and/or telemarketing campaign in conjunction with a letter to notify consumers that mail will be coming.

(5) Temporarily consider briefly delaying business-to-business mailings because of potential logjams in receiving mailrooms.

(6) Utilize the DMA Member logo to show that you are in elite company.

(7) Contact your lettershop and other production services to stress the importance of security.

(8) Consider performing a security audit throughout your entire operation.

(9) Evaluate your campaign approach and consider that personalization temporarily is less likely to create increases in response rates.

(10) If you are involved in production services, know who your customers are.

(11) Reinforce your existing internal guidelines about forwarding press and consumer calls to appropriate internal channels.

(12) Educate mailroom employees about identifying and dealing with possible threats.

(13) Utilize The DMA as press resource. Feel free to forward press calls to 212-768-7277.”

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