DMA and Email Experience Council Join Forces

The Direct Marketing Association hasn’t always been considered a beacon of best e-mail practices by everyone, but the influential organization is working to change that. Its decision to join forces with the Email Experience Council, expected to be announced today, is one indication.

According to DMA COO Ramesh Lakshmi-Ratan, the DMA will assume legal ownership of the EEC, a global professional organization focused on developing e-mail and digital marketing best practices. The plan is for the DMA’s current marketing related e-mail group, the EMail Marketing Council, formerly the Council for Responsible Email, to be folded into the EEC’s operation, and take on the EEC name. Current members of the DMA’s Email Marketing Council include Goodmail Systems, Wachovia, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, eBay, and EmailLabs.

Until recently, the DMA has set its e-mail sights mainly on advocacy in the hope of steering government regulation. “We have a good heritage from the perspective of government affairs,” said Lakshmi-Ratan. “What the EEC really brings to the table is a fresh new set of things.” These include e-mail marketing best practices and research, the tactical and consumer-aimed arenas in which the DMA has just begun to work.

“Our Email Marketing Council had just started working on those areas,” added Lakshmi-Ratan. The EEC integration “accelerates the value proposition.”

The EEC, formed about a year and a half ago, conducts initiatives to develop best practices and guidelines for e-mail list growth, deliverability and rendering, enhancing user experiences, and other issues. Current members of the organization include, Cisco, Forbes, ReturnPath, and Unilever.

Under the new structure, EEC founder Jeanniey Mullen will be made an executive co-chair of the new DMA division. Mullen is also executive director, senior partner, worldwide e-mail marketing at OgilvyOne Worldwide, and a ClickZ columnist.

Michael Della Penna, who has served as chair of the Email Marketing Council, will act as executive co-chair of the combined operation, and will continue heading the regulatory and public affairs side of the DMA’s e-mail efforts. Della Penna is also Epsilon’s CMO. His DMA colleague, EMC vice chair Stephanie Miller, also VP strategic services for Return Path, will remain at the new EEC in the same role.

“She will help us along with the whole integration,” said Lakshmi-Ratan.

EEC staff will move to the DMA’s New York offices, according to Lakshmi-Ratan, who said the new ownership will provide the EEC with additional administrative support. “We want to make sure that we keep the EEC on track and people continue to do what they’re doing,” he said.

In addition to its EEC announcement, the DMA plans to unveil an ”Email Reputation Evaluation Platform,” developed in conjunction with e-mail research and technology firm Return Path, for use by DMA members. Return Path is a member of both the DMA and the EEC.

The DMA also plans to publish an anthology of its e-mail best practices documents sometime in the future, though no publication date is set.

Lakshmi-Ratan acknowledged the expansion of direct marketing into several new platforms and non-traditional advertiser verticals has led the organization to rethink its role. Though he wouldn’t say whether the DMA plans additional acquisitions, he did state, “We are faced with opportunities for growth as well as challenges….In that kind of world, we’ll grow.”

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