March 2007 - Pure Convergence

While the ERA board begins to lay the groundwork for tackling initiatives, seven newly elected board members weigh in on what they believe needs to be done to foster future growth.

By Vitisia Paynich

It’s been said many times over that an organization is only as strong as its members. That adage couldn’t be more apropos for the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA), especially for its 2006-07 board of directors. On January 27, the board gathered in Miami’s South Beach for the ERA Strategic Planning Meeting.

Rick Petry

Chief Marketing Officer

Barbara Tulipane, CAE
Electronic Retailing Association (ERA)

Edwin P. Garrubbo
Creative Commerce LLC

Greg Anderson

Salem Radio Network

Brian Bieron
Senior Director, Federal Gov’t. Affairs
eBay Inc.

Branimir Brkljac
President & CEO
Studio Moderna

Jonathan Congdon
Product Partners LLC/BeachBody

Steven J. Edelstein
The Logical Step

Adriana Eiriz
Managing Director
Vivar Advertising

Nathan Fagre, Esq.
SVP & General Counsel
ValueVision Media Inc. (ShopNBC)

Christopher Gassett, Esq.
Senior Privacy & Consumer Compliance Counsel

Linda Goldstein, Esq.
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP

Lawrence Hayes
Vice President, Legal & Asst. Secretary
QVC Inc.

Maria Kennedy
Vice President, DR/Paid Programming
Discovery Communications

Fern Lee
Executive Vice President

Tonda Mullis
Founder & CEO
MarketRights International

Robert Roche
Oaklawn Marketing (Director, Acorn Int’l)

Lee Swanson
InPulse Response Group

Jeff Tuller

Jeffrey D. Knowles, Esq.

Venable LLP

Greg Renker

Guthy-Renker Corp.

This gave board members an opportunity to come together as a unified group to address issues such as the rebranding efforts, government affairs initiatives and how to effectively reach out to the organization’s core membership base.

In 2006, seven new members joined the board. Electronic Retailer spoke one-on-one with them to discuss what they hope to bring to the table during their tenure and what they believe will drive the Association’s expansion. What’s more, we asked Chairman Rick Petry and Chair-Elect Edwin Garrubbo to share their thoughts about some of the board initiatives going forward.

Electronic Retailer: What does it mean to become a new ERA board member?

Adriana Eiriz: It’s an honor for me to be a part of the board-to sit next to such incredible executives in this industry. It’s a great opportunity for me personally and professionally for our agency [Vivar Advertising] to be part of this group. What I honestly believe to be important is to be able to offer my vision, thoughts, guidance and collaboration in the evolution that ERA is going through.

Robert Roche: I think there’s an obligation as a board member to do what’s right for the organization by setting aside my personal business and dealing with the issues at hand. The first objective is to do what’s best for ERA as a whole, and then see how that can help further my own business as a member.

Jeff Tuller: To me, becoming a new ERA board member means an opportunity to help serve our industry by helping ERA promote it in a positive light, not only to others in the industry but also to our consumers and the government.

ER: What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure on the board?

Fern Lee: I hope to put in new measures and processes that will take our organization to the next level.

Steve Edelstein: From my perspective as a marketing/communications expert, it’s important that I actively get involved in the communications efforts that ERA is taking in reaching out to its membership. It’s also important to reach out to prospects outside of the Association; I’m talking about reciprocal associations that have an interest in learning more about what the direct response community is doing. From a growth perspective, I want to help the Association explore new channels and new ways of generating revenue. It’s important that each and every one of us get involved. As an evangelist, I want to make sure that we speak up about the value of ERA.

Larry Hayes: The goal of ERA is a good one in trying to help the industry as a whole, and I think we need to continue to gain acceptance and trust with customers. That’s part of the overall mission and something we have to do.

ER: Why is it important for ERA and its membership to embrace a multichannel environment?

Lee Swanson: I think it’s critical. I truly believe DRTV is not going to be the driving force it has been in the past. I’m already beginning to see that with some of the clients that my company [InPulse Response Group] is servicing today. Three or four years ago, our clients were generating somewhere in the 15- to 20-percent range of their revenue from web-based transactions. Today, it’s not uncommon to find clients generating 50, 60, to even 70 percent of their revenue from the web. It still may be primarily driven by DRTV, but that’s changing. Google obviously bought YouTube for a reason. And I believe streaming video is going to be a force in the future. It’s an obligation for every board member to be plugged into where we’re heading, and how we’re going to reach the audiences that we need to reach.

Eiriz: All of our industry is evolving with technology. So, we need to look at, be aware of and educate ourselves on how to take these different vehicles and apply them to our industry to create greater profit and greater revenue for our businesses.

ER: Looking ahead, what key issues should the ERA board address this year?

Hayes: Net neutrality is a big issue for the industry as a whole. I think net neutrality is important for every business in terms of keeping the Internet open and not having separate charges for different content. I think sales tax legislation is another big one. Those two issues I think are critical to all direct response marketers and retailers, regardless of their means of distribution.

ER: With its government affairs efforts, ERA has focused on the issue of counterfeiting. How should this issue be handled?

Tuller: I think ERA needs to take two roles on the counterfeiting side. First, to help establish a code of conduct within our industry, which ERA has been actively working on-much like a self-regulation policy. Second, ERA, in terms of lobbying and governmental affairs, needs to continue to work with Capitol Hill and with other associations to drive regulations, as they relate to counterfeit imports and foreign relations with countries where counterfeiting runs rampant. And, we need to have ERA provide a strong voice on the Hill and help band together with the other industries and associations to make sure that voice is heard in order to eliminate the billions of dollars of loss to our country due to counterfeiting activities.

ER: There has been a lot of discussion about ERA rebranding itself. How should the Association proceed?

Chair-Elect Edwin Garrubbo: The rebranding effort is intended to finally define what the name ERA means, as well as to analyze whether the name fits the mission of the association. The name ERA means different things to different people. When we hired our branding firm to evaluate the name and brand, they concluded that the brand is weak in many ways. Therefore, our immediate focus will be on analyzing the name ERA, the public perception of ERA and the mission of the association so that these three components of the brand move forward in harmony. We may conclude that a name change is necessary, or we may conclude that we just want to freshen the existing ERA brand. We will have an open mind to the process.

Lee: I think a process has to be put in place, where we have to literally rethink our strategy. We need to ask ourselves: Where does our Association/membership want to be? Who are we trying to serve? And once we question ourselves on a certain set of processes, the rebranding question will be much easier to answer.

Chairman Rick Petry: We’ve hired an agency, called Creative Strategy, which has been interviewing key leaders and stakeholders. We’re examining whether our current name and positioning make sense in light of the way that the direct marketing landscape has changed, and how our membership’s businesses have [been affected] in light of changes in consumer behavior and technology. My expectation is that we’ll see what I call a metamorphosis take place. And what we’re trying to do is recalibrate ourselves so that we can be relevant and dynamic into the future. It’s very clear to me that the change we’re experiencing now is going to be constant. So, I look at the common denominator for all of us and it’s two words: direct response. And, whatever we do we want to be able to create something that people understand and is meaningful and vibrant.

ER: As ERA chair, what main objective do you plan on addressing with the board this year?

Petry: The main objective of my tenure as ERA chairman has been trying to do this rebranding, but it became pretty clear in Miami that this whole idea of enlisting more marketers to shift the balance within ERA is where we’re headed and what’s important. Attracting more marketers into ERA is going to make it a more vibrant organization. And it’s going to help everyone, including the supplier members who want to build their businesses. So a lot of our focus, in terms of directing our efforts from top to bottom, will be geared toward that objective, which is attracting marketers. At the end of the day, marketers are the honey that attracts the bees and creates an economic opportunity for everyone.

ER: What do you believe is the key to ERA’s overall growth?

Swanson: First, we have to provide services that are more meaningful to the existing membership. Next, we have to ask questions, such as: Where are we going? How important is the Internet going to be in our processes? We need to be able to answer those questions as best we can and unveil those services to our membership. This will allow them to make economic sense as to why they should invest money in an ERA membership and understand what benefits they are going to gain from that. And we’re heading down that path. To me, it’s all around the government affairs initiatives. There are some huge initiatives right now in which the FTC is taking a look at strict guidelines on testimonials. We need to be involved with that process to determine how that’s going to affect our business going forward, and communicate that benefit to our membership in a manner that is well defined and understood by them. It’s those kinds of benefits that should be promoted to our membership in order for ERA to continue growing stronger.

We would appreciate your feedback. To submit comments, please e-mail the magazine at [email protected].


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