Greco Tells Attendees: We Must Improve Image, Trust

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NEW ORLEANS -- Direct Marketing Association president/CEO John A. Greco Jr. laid out his agenda for the association and its members yesterday during the DMA's 87th Annual Conference & Exhibition.

He used the word "value" as an acronym standing for vision, alignment, leadership, understanding and execution, and he described what he learned during his "personal listening tour" that he embarked on after joining the DMA in August.

"Now more than ever, on so many fronts the DMA must have a united, strong voice," he said.

The keynote address was the first time Greco spoke to the DMA membership at large since taking over two months ago. In terms of the state of the industry, he mentioned several issues that have been ongoing for many years: postal reform, remote sales tax collection, outbound telemarketing, the environment and, especially, privacy.

"The privacy debate has escalated as technology has steadily advanced," he said. "There has been increased scrutiny of our industry and its practices and growing calls for more government regulation of how we do business."

Greco discussed the Federal Trade Commission's settlement in August with three list companies and told attendees that the DMA met with the FTC last week so it could issue guidance to members about how to comply with existing regulations. An announcement is expected in the next two weeks.

"Consumers need options, and we need to respect their choices," he said.

In an interview with DM News after his speech, Greco elaborated on the DMA's meeting with the FTC. Greco said he was convinced that it was not the FTC's intent to impose unreasonable standards on the industry and that he was encouraged by the meeting.

Greco also said that the No. 1 concern members expressed in his meetings with them was the industry's image, and he vowed that he will be a visible spokesman for the industry.

Though he predicted that no major privacy bills would pass this year, Greco said in his speech that the issue certainly would re-emerge in Congress next year.

Greco also said that he hoped to improve segment services and that the DMA would add a small business council in addition to the hospitality council that launches Nov. 1.

He characterized the economy as on the mend but said consumer spending and confidence were still issues. According to the DMA's newly released Quarterly Business Review for the third quarter, the industry has continued a trend of growth over the past five quarters. Direct marketers projected growth for the fourth quarter as well.

Preliminary numbers from the DMA's Economic Impact Study to be released in January showed that projected direct response ad spending for 2004 will be $186 billion, up 9 percent from 2003, Greco said. Projected sales figures will be $2.2 trillion, he said, up 10 percent from last year. A five-year projection has DM sales exceeding $3.1 trillion in 2009.


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