New DMA Chief: No Segment Left Behind

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The Direct Marketing Association's new president/CEO, John A. Greco, promised yesterday that no segment of the direct marketing community will be left behind during his tenure.


Greco takes over as head of the DMA on Aug. 16. Retiring president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen has said he will stay with the association until the end of the year to ensure a smooth transition.


In an interview with DM News, Greco responded to questions about challenges facing the industry, including grumbling from some parts of the industry that they were neglected during Wientzen's tenure.


Telemarketers complained that the DMA treated them as an afterthought despite statistics showing that telemarketing leads the industry in dollars generated. E-mail marketers were upset that the DMA limited its definition of spam to deceptive e-mail only, rather than all unsolicited commercial e-mail.


Greco said he could not comment on the DMA's previous focus, but he wanted to ensure all parts of the industry feel well served.


"My intention is that every segment of the direct marketing industry has the attention it needs," he said. "I will organize resources around every segment to make sure they are well represented."


Greco's background is diverse and in some ways resembles that of Wientzen when he came to the DMA in 1996. Like Wientzen, Greco has extensive experience in direct marketing and worked the majority of his career at a national corporation, in Greco's case AT&T.


Greco comes to the DMA with experience as an association head. He served as president/CEO of the Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association from 2000 to 2003 and worked in "many of the same circles" as Wientzen, he said.


According to the Yellow Pages & Directory Report, an industry newsletter, Greco departed the YPIMA amid some controversy. Under Greco, the YPIMA began a multimillion-dollar ad campaign, and some members thought he focused too much on courting national and nontraditional advertisers, the newsletter said.


Greco said he spent 30 percent to 40 percent of his time at the YPIMA working on public policy issues. That experience should prove handy as the DMA emerges from a cloud of controversy surrounding last year's launch of the national no-call registry.


The DMA's court challenge to the list, since dropped, made it a focal point for consumer criticism about privacy issues. Greco said that he approved of the DMA's handling of public perception of the industry and that he planned to continue to work to improve direct marketing's image in the minds of consumers.


The DMA must show the public that marketers are working in everyone's best interest, he said. It must portray how DM is a field for sellers and buyers to come together.


"It's a very critical balance," he said. "It's going to take lots of work to make sure the industry is perceived that way."


The DMA's executive search committee, which consisted of seven current and former board members, worked with search firm Spencer Stuart, which identified more than 150 qualified candidates for the position. The search took 4 1/2 months from the time Spencer Stuart came on board in March.


"We'd like to do it in a shorter timetable," said Spencer Stuart consultant Christopher Nadherny, who along with colleague Leslie Hortum assisted the DMA in the search. "In association searches, it's unique in that you're dealing with a committee of decision makers."


Spencer Stuart boiled the initial list of prospects down to 22, then to 12 before presenting them to the search committee, Nadherny said. The committee conducted face-to-face interviews with about a half-dozen candidates.


Greco began his career at RCA in 1974. In 1977, he went to AT&T, where he spent 19 years in marketing and business development positions. He was at AT&T during the emergence of telemarketing in the early 1980s and worked with telesales guru John Wyman when he was vice president of marketing at AT&T. His last five years at AT&T, 1991 to 1996, were spent as director of its Consumer Laboratory of Excellence.


There, he led the lab in early explorations of how the Internet, home networks, interactive television and wireless could be applied to marketing. The lab developed modeling methods that were used by AT&T Consumer Business Unit for direct marketing.


Before taking over the YPIMA, Greco served as a marketing executive at R.R. Donnelley & Sons, where he also worked with cutting-edge technologies and strategies including closed-loop marketing and digital print.


Greco has an MBA from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in electronic engineering from Monmouth University. He, his wife, Carol, and their three children reside in Watchung, NJ.


Wientzen said Greco "has an excellent understanding of the key issues facing our business, both on the business-to-consumer and business-to-business sides. [He also] has had considerable involvement with association and nonprofit management and will provide the DMA the direction and vision needed to adapt to a rapidly evolving marketplace."


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