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Direct Response Marketing

Facing the Regulatory Music

1 Nov, 2008 By: Thomas Haire Response

Leading legal and industry association experts discuss the current regulatory landscape in direct response marketing.

Should trade associations be open to working closely with the FTC and FCC to help create stronger advertising compliance guidelines for all marketers?

Woolley: We're open to working with any association or regulatory body that helps to strengthen our membership.

McClellan: Absolutely, we have an open door. There are a couple of things that we do. We're a member of a loose coalition of advertising groups called the Freedom to Advertise Coalition, which includes the 4As (American Association of Advertising Agencies), the ANA (Association of National Advertisers), the DMA — a broad swath of groups in our space. We work pretty closely with those folks. We have monthly calls and work on filings to the FTC together. We're always open where the interests of another trade association are similar. We've worked with the Council of Responsible Nutrition on responses to the FTC when it was working on testimonial guidelines. Whenever it's in the interest of our members, we have no qualms in working with anyone.

Goldstein: While there have always been some within the trade associations that have feared close alliances with the FTC and FCC, a close working relationship benefits the industry by ensuring that the industry can play a role in shaping the regulations and guidelines that will govern its activities. History has also shown us that strong and effective self-regulation is best.

Knowles: Self-regulation, backed by industry trade associations, has played a vital role in the regulation of advertising since the creation of NAD by the Council of Better Business Bureaus in the early 1960s. The FTC has frequently and strongly commended self-regulation in general, and, in particular, the efforts and willingness of an industry to get involved in regulating its own gives the participants substantial credibility with the FTC. Trade associations should be open to working closely with the FTC and the FCC. Close cooperation is the primary means for trade associations to influence the decisions made by the regulators. Contrary to their approach to individual enforcement actions, regulators can be timid when it comes to revising old rules or establishing new ones. Trade associations can have considerable weight in the outcome of these regulatory initiatives if they become involved early and provide realistic, balanced input.

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