DMers Can't Become Poster Child for Data Security: Greco

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NEW YORK -- Protecting consumers from identity theft is the biggest responsibility for sellers today, Direct Marketing Association president/CEO John Greco told leading list brokers and managers May 25.

Ensuring this protection requires distinguishing identity-specific data such as Social Security and medical records from marketing data based on a person's shopping habits, he said at the DMA List & Database Council luncheon.

"It is critical to build awareness that marketing data can't be used to steal identity," Mr. Greco said. "So as we hammer that message home to Capitol Hill, direct marketers must be even more responsible than ever in handling marketing data. We can't afford to become a poster child for data security."

Beyond maintaining data security, the DM industry faces other challenges like preserving good customer relationships, safeguarding consumer trust and coping with ever-changing postal rates and regulations, he said.

Though Mr. Greco called the industry's outlook strong, he expressed concern with the U.S. Postal Service's recently filed rate case asking for an 8.5 percent average rate increase and a 9 percent jump for Standard Mail. Such rate increases will force companies to limit their mailing campaigns and look for cheaper means of marketing, he said.

Direct marketing buyers have power over sellers today, he said, because consumers have great ability to shun marketing messages. Sellers must provide pertinent, precise knowledge that is relevant to the recipient and meets individual preferences.

"Breaking through these empowered buyers is critical, and getting what I call an information dialogue going with them is the key to success," Mr. Greco said. "Accurate, timely information that's relevant to a subject that's on someone's mind right now -- even among all the distractions of this multichannel universe -- is the key to breaking through with even the most elusive target."

The DMA is working with the Federal Trade Commission to educate consumers, he said. The association plans to have consumer-friendly templates on its Web site.

"We will continue to work, not only in Washington but in the states and around the world as well, to keep the future outlook for direct marketing strong and healthy," Mr. Greco said.

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