Be change leaders in ad-bombarded world: Greco tells DMers

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SAN FRANCISCO - Many more organizations are beginning to realize they need to be marketing directly to their customers, according to the leader of the Direct Marketing Association.

John A. Greco Jr., president/CEO of the DMA, was giving count of the year in direct marketing and the issues ahead at the DMA06 conference and exhibition here Oct. 16.

"Not too long ago, direct marketing was seen as a separate industry, an advertising specialty on the margin of sales and promotion," Mr. Greco said. "But over the years, propelled by all the development in communications and computing, direct marketing has evolved into a broad, multifaceted process with a common denominator where the customer always calls the shots."

Mr. Greco said direct marketers have skills with tremendous value in a world where people are now bombarded with 5,000 advertising messages every day - from little screens in elevators to printing on fresh eggs.

"We may never run out of places to put advertising messages," Mr. Greco said. "But we are very near to the limits of human ability to absorb them all. Something has to change.

"We have the ability to be the leaders of that change," he said. "By taking that leadership, we'll be elevating the strategic importance of direct marketing to new heights."

Mr. Greco also commented on a couple things he see creating even more exciting opportunities and challenges ahead. One is the new generation of online communities springing up, such as MySpace, FaceBook and YouTube multiplied by the thousands.

"Word of mouth in these communities will suddenly give people access - before deciding on any purchase or donation - to more, better-qualified opinions and endorsements, from more people than they could ever talk to before," he said.

Second is the importance of search.

Mr. Greco mentioned that the DMA launched DMA Search Certification, a rigorous two-level training and examination program enabling applicants to become certified search engine marketers through either in-person or online training.

This program is designed to give people the knowledge they need to lead search marketing programs for agencies or in-house marketing teams.

Mr. Greco also discussed the fact that the direct marketing community has the potential for losing its access to marketing data.

He said 189 new data security bills were proposed in state capitols this session, and there are 36 states with differing data security laws on the books with different triggers for notifications and widely varying requirements.

He said at the federal level several bills were introduced in Congress this term that, if enacted, could have seriously damaged direct marketers' ability to market directly.

"DMA supports a federal law with clear, consistent standards that allow everyone - including marketers - to do the right thing," Mr.Greco said. "What do I mean by the right thing? I mean protecting information that can be used to steal people's identity - for example, credit card, driver's license, or Social Security numbers.

"Doing the right thing means letting people know when there's a significant risk that kind of information has been compromised," he said.

The other public policy issue Mr. Greco touched on was the mail, including postal reform and do-not-mail bills. He also brought up the economic impact of direct marketing in the United States.

According to the DMA's latest numbers, direct marketing-driven sales now make up a full 10.3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product; 7.5 percent of all U.S. employment is now direct marketing-driven - that's over 10.5 million jobs.

In other stats, this year, business and nonprofits will spend $166.5 billion dollars on direct marketing. That's 6 percent more than last year. As a result, direct marketing-driven sales will reach $1.939 trillion dollars, a 7.4 percent increase over 2005.

Finally, Mr. Greco issued a challenge to the audience.

"I want to challenge every DMA member to help us recruit one new DMA member as soon as possible," Mr. Greco said. "Take a good look around the room. It's filled with highly qualified prospects. I issue this challenge not as a numerical imperative but as a reflection of the mindset I believe we need in the direct marketing community."

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