If you have worked in electronic retailing for any amount of time, you have either asked this question or been asked by someone in the industry. It’s an appropriate question to ask. We face a period of change. Our industry, our association, and even our companies are changing, and it is not always clear that the strategies that have worked for the past 25-plus years will remain viable.
So, what is ERA good for? The answer is many of things, especially in times like these. ERA gives us a voice loud enough to be heard in the halls of power, it keeps the playing field level, and it provides a platform to grow our businesses and our industry as a whole.
A Powerful Voice
Since its inception, our industry has faced withering scrutiny from both elected officials and government regulators. While individual companies may have lobbyists who advocate on their behalf, ERA is the sole voice for our industry before state and federal legislators and law enforcers. On countless issues such as net neutrality, online sales tax, FTC oversight, and “Operation Chokepoint,” ERA has been at the forefront of policy issues; advocating not for any one of us but for all of us. Just last month, the association brought together more than 100 members of our industry to meet with federal regulators, a leading state attorney general, and the offices of more than 30 members of Congress.
Minding Our House
For more than a decade, ERA and the Council of Better Business Bureaus have provided, via the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP), an affordable and expedient means for our industry to police itself. ERSP challenges allow marketers to challenge competitors’ advertising claims without incurring the tremendous expense of litigation in the courts. At the same time, ERSP’s ongoing review of direct-to-consumer advertising demonstrates to federal regulators and state attorneys general that our industry is serious about consumer protection, and that we can keep our house in order without onerous government-imposed regulation.
Expanding Our Presence
Although our roots are in direct response television, we live in an omnichannel world. Direct-to-consumer marketing accounts for more than $350 billion in domestic consumer spending, and has outgrown the limitations of television, radio and, in our increasingly mobile work, the “desktop” internet. ERA’s leadership understands this and is actively expanding our industry’s presence in other communities. Just one example of this is the recent cross-marketing agreement with the Internet Retailer Conference + Exhibition (IRCE).
All of these initiatives come to fruition through the work of a tiny cadre of paid staff, a small army of volunteers, and the financial support of companies across our industry. But we need to do more.
A thriving and effective industry association requires more than paying membership dues, purchasing a conference badge, and buying advertising in the magazine or on the website. It requires your heart, your mind, your mouth, and your rolled-up sleeves.
Help us realize ERA’s full potential. Become active on a committee…or two. Encourage your partners and suppliers to join and support the association. Set aside time to help someone new to our industry get his or her bearings and begin to build a network. Do whatever feels right for you, but commit to putting your shoulder to the wheel and playing a part in realizing the tremendous value that our people-powered association provides to the entire direct-to-consumer marketing community.
Photo by niamwhan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Chuck Wilkins is the Practice Development Manager at Venable LLP and works with the firm’s Advertising, Marketing and New Media practice group. He may be reached at (202) 344-8253 and firstname.lastname@example.org.