Transcript of John Greco's Press Conference at DMA*05

This is a transcript of Direct Marketing Association president/CEO John A. Greco Jr.'s press conference with about 20 members of the trade media at this week's DMA*05.

Greco: … I've got about 15 minutes or so before I better run off to a number of member receptions. As you can imagine, there are more than a couple of those around the city tonight, but I wanted to make sure that we had a chance to get together. … Anything that you'd like to follow up on with me, we can certainly do that another time, but I wanted to make sure we had at least a few minutes together here.

I've heard a number of questions and concerns about our new inMarketing magazine and our intentions about the role that it plays in the universe of direct marketing publications, many of whom are in this room. First, let me state — and I can't really state this strongly enough — it is absolutely not our intention at all to detract from the existing publications or position inMarketing against them in any way. We have nothing but the utmost respect for the trade publications that cover this marvelous direct marketing process.

Quite simply, the new magazine is intended as a better alternative to the various written communications that we have been using to reach out to our members in the past. It was born from listening to members' suggestions about how best we can serve them. And it reflects the new DMA and its commitment to really listen and communicate effectively and efficiently with our members.

Now I hope you know, and if you don't know it before now I hope you will after tonight, that I have a great deal of respect for all of the publications that cover direct marketing, and I'm really looking forward to working with each and every one of you in the months to come. And so, I hope we can move forward beyond that into issues that are more substantive around the direction that this entire direct marketing process is taking. I turn it over to you.

Is it a profit center? InMarketing, are you making money on that publication?

We are investing in this. This is a member communications vehicle. We are offsetting some of our costs with it. It is an investment that really is collapsing many other vehicles that we've used in the past, each of which were invested in by us and we had some existing advertising revenue in them already, so we are just really shifting those same dollars around within the mix. I do not look at this as a profit center. I look at it as a member-communications vehicle that in the best interests of our members we should subsidize to the best degree possible so that we don't need to raise members' dues, which would be the other alternative in order to give them those communications vehicles.

But is it profitable?

I'm not sure that's a question that we should be dealing with here. Are we going to have an editorial discussion or a business meeting discussion? I just am not sure where we're going with this. I've made my statement. Anything else anybody would like to talk about other than inMarketing magazine?



Are you going to tell us how many attendees?

I think you heard me say this morning that we are very proud of the fact that we had over 10,000 attendees is what we're anticipating the final numbers will be.

Are you going to release them?

I just did.

But over 10,000 is not — I think up until 2001 you guys used to release exact figures. Are you not doing that anymore?

We are releasing figures that reflect the honesty about what's here in terms of the approximate size of the audience. I think the mistake that we would make if we tried to be more precise than that at every conference would be dealing with issues of mix. We have a wonderful, wonderful turnout here. It has been very strong since post-2001.

We're very pleased with the turnout, and we are taking another step in the direction and releasing the kinds of information that you've been asking for by stating that it is over 10,000. I know we'll be doing that at every conference in terms of giving you at least a baseline for what's here. [On Tuesday, the DMA updated the attendance number and said it was under 11,000 people.]

The rebranding that you're doing seems fairly comprehensive — the new logo, the new tagline, everything. Why are you doing that now? Was there a specific issue, event … at this point?

That's a very good question. The event goes back to the strategic plan that we put in place and was approved by our board last January. … And as a result of that strategic plan, the real redefinition of our brand personality, the recognition in that strategic planning process that there is this convergence zone that we talk about, that we really do need to be respecting not only the businesses that we represent but the consumers; being as much a consumer advocate as a business advocate and recognizing the requirements of public policy.

It's an amazingly wonderful convergence of timing in that given that planning being complete and the fact that we're operationalizing it, we then looked at did our branding, did our logo, did the look and feel reflect the personality that we believe we have achieved and that we are going to be going forward. And we realized there was a disconnect between the prior logo, the prior imaging, the prior visual, feel, so the timing is very much strategically placed and consistent with what we had in the strategic plan.

Was this part of your plan when you came in as the head of the DMA? Did you bring this idea with you?

I was very, very fortunate when I came on board that the board and the strategic planning committee of the board had already begun the process so that we did not need to start from a dead stop. As you know doing strategic planning processes and branding is certainly not something that's easy to begin from a dead stop. I was deeply pleased that when I came in it wasn't finished, so that I really had a chance to get very involved and take ownership of it and guide it in a direction that we would all be comfortable with and so we were about midpoint in the process when I came on board.

I remember that, I don't know if it was when the strategic plan was announced but certainly at the critical issues list luncheon that you spoke at, you talked about a consumer — some kind of — campaign like education-wise and that you were working with ad agencies on that. Is there any update on the status of that?

We have actually, what you saw this morning in terms of the basic branding and the key elements that we're talking about in terms of relevance, responsibility, results goes off into a whole platform that could be very easily leveraged into a consumer campaign. So we're talking with a variety of our members now about their interests and working with the board in terms of looking at how far we'll take them.

We believe we have the right components of the messaging now, and we think the best approach here is to really walk before we run in that direction and begin communicating that through as many consumer-oriented vehicles as possible. And we'll just take it one step at a time. We think we've got the right platform to jump off on.

How are you planning to implement and enforce the e-mail best practices that you mentioned today?

Within the DMA, we have an ethics policy and an ethics operating committee, two separate committees … the policy develops and the operating committee monitors any of our policies like that. We do that through a combination of vehicles ranging from consumer complaints to us that we then follow up on and investigate to secret shopper programs, right, where our members are fully supportive of that concept … that we're going to monitor and track the activity that's going on and making sure that our members are compliant.

We have a number of councils — I believe it's five to be exact in the interactive community — and certainly those councils will be very involved in the particular council that will be helping us drive that in terms of working with the community to be able to put in a great monitoring capability.

What's the timetable on getting people to comply with that?

We believe that given that we just announced this today, that it would be reasonable to — and Pat Kuchura, by the way, who heads up our ethics and consumer affairs relations, who's standing in back of the room and she's smiling because we had this discussion yesterday in our board meeting — we think it would be appropriate to give people 60 to 90 days in order to begin the compliance.

And then from that point forward if they're having any difficulty, we'll certainly be helping them through the process, guiding them through it. It's a relatively straightforward and easy process, but we'll certainly help them with that if there's a problem, but beyond that point we really will be enforcing it.

What will enforcement involve?

Enforcing means that in order to retain membership in the DMA, you need to be authenticated. This is considered to be a requirement of membership, and, so again, the first step in that process, as with any of our policies, is education. We always start with an assumption that if someone isn't doing something, the first step is help them understand how they can do it better. But if on a repeated basis that is not effective, then we do not want the rest of the DMA community brought down by that.

What kind of costs are involved with this? Is there a cost to the industry, to the individual members, to comply with it?

The actual cost of implementing it is very modest, very modest. We can get you … maybe a range of what we've seen. I don't know the number off the top of my head, but I know it's not an exorbitant cost issue. I believe what has prevented people or slowed people down from doing this in the past is there had been for some time a rather sophisticated technical debate over which technology of authentication was the best one. In fact, that was a debate that was best left to the technologists because in fact all of the various authentication protocols became compatible with each other.

It doesn't matter which one you check against as long as your authenticator works, and I think people had to get over that hurdle and understand that. That's part of the message that we're trying to bring forward, and we've done that through a number of vehicles. We've done it by communicating with the Federal Trade Commission about that in a forum they had, and now we've taken this step to again make it very clear to our members that that perceived barrier should be behind everyone. There's no reason why they shouldn't be proceeding with this.

Is the DMA recommending any particular type of authentication?

No, we're not.

Are you working with the ISPs in order to implement or help your members to implement?

We absolutely are.

Is it a formal agreement, a partnership of some kind?

It's more informal in terms of just making sure that there's anything that they would find helpful that we could communicate that we do that. And over time, if it's something that would be benefited from being something more formal in terms of working with each of them, we would be happy to do that. But, again, across the board with all of them, we're not picking a particular ISP and singling them out.

The ISPs were pushing this along anyway. Did you get a request from them to talk to your members, because it was going to happen with or without the DMA?

We did not get a request from them.

Is it part of one element of a lobbying effort? Are you showing the federal government that you are willing to self-regulate? Is it part of your federal effort?

Without a doubt, as you might have heard this morning as I described this, this is one part of our overall effort to not only demonstrate the effectiveness of self-regulation but also to ensure that we across the board within the direct marketing community are truly doing the right thing.

There's a combination here of both behaving in a way that will deliver the best results for our marketers, again this is … that convergence zone where it's a triple win-win. It's good for our businesses to deliver the messages that they want to deliver. To authenticate, they've got … a higher probability of delivery. To the consumer, they'll know it's coming from something that's authenticated, and the combination of that is if it's good for both parties and they're both happy, the regulator is also pleased with that and doesn't feel that they need to come in and regulate.

Could you talk a little about the BTB side of your upcoming ad campaign, if there is in fact one?

… As I walked into the work that's been done and the DMA in the past on the BTB segment, I think one of the things that we have not done and now that with our new five pillars that we talked about in terms of advocacy and image and then the other three components — the education programs, the networking opportunities and the research — we clearly now have an opportunity with that platform in place to take each segment whether it's a segment of the consumer market or whether it's the entire BTB segment and say, what are we doing on each of those particular platform components that's appropriate for that segment, that's tuned properly with that segment. …

Now we have to get into it a little bit further and really say is there a component of this communications program that would apply differently to the business community than with the consumer. But I think the fundamental attributes of it in terms of being relevant and responsible and delivering results apply equally, powerfully and appropriately whether they're approaching the business community or the consumer community.

But you're going to talk very differently to the consumer community than you will to the business community. There won't be two separate campaigns?

I don't view it as two separate campaigns. I view it as an umbrella campaign with multiple segments or executions of it. You can certainly call it two separate campaigns if you want, but that's not how I think about it.

And what's the timing on that campaign?

We have built the platform now. We will begin rolling this out over the next several months. And then we are looking for some initial feedback on that. This is a major move so we want to make sure we're moving in the right direction. We'll be working with our members and making sure that they're getting the guidance in supporting it with us.

And the media you're going to be using for the campaign?

Just imagine anything. … That's a little too specific for tonight … Now I've got to run to another session. Thank you.

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