Last week MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT’s Mark Del Franco spoke with John A. Greco Jr., president/CEO of the Direct Marketing Association, for his view on some of the issues keeping direct marketers up at night.
MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT: The mailing community was dealt a blow when the Postal Regulatory Commission [PRC] denied an effort to roll back price increases on April 24. What is your take on what happened?
John Greco: I’m a firm believer that there’s strength in unity, and this is an unfortunate but a great example of how not having unity can hurt you. In the midst of the strategy, an ad hoc group of mailers [the Coalition of Catalog Mailers, or CCM] filed a motion with the PRC to reopen the rate case record. The action immediately stopped all reconsideration for Standard Mail flat rates. Had the coalition contacted us beforehand, we would have strongly urged them to reconsider.
The group asked the PRC to give catalogers enough time to adjust to the high rates rather than a desirable action of lowering the rates. The message the PRC received was that catalogers weren’t interested in lowering the rates but simply in the implementation date. So all the ad hoc group was requesting was a delay in the implementation of the rates, not a reduction. This was not a winning strategy. We were passionate that we had a strategy in place to do what was best for mailers.
Now we’re working with the Postal Service and the Board of Governors to avoid a second rate case, and that is clearly driven by how fast the current rate commission can get their rules completed [in keeping with the postal reform legislation passed in December]. Our goal is to have the rules created before the end of the year [so that the next increase would have to be tied to] the consumer price index. But [because the postal reform law gives the PRC until mid-2008 to finalize its new rules] another rate case could be filed [under the existing regulations].
MCM: Where are we regarding a do-not-mail registry?
Greco: This year we have seen significant legislation: 18 bills in 15 states were introduced, as opposed to 2006 when only four states introduced do-not-mail bills. However, none of the bills introduced have made it out of committee. We’re doing work on the ground to educate the legislators about the importance for direct mailers… Any do-not-mail law could result in disastrous effects for the economy. Advertising mail supports the postal system that consumers are used to. This will be a long-term battle that won’t go away this year or next.
MCM: What else should we be concerned about?
Greco: Environmental groups will continue to push for changes. To help multichannel marketers, we’ve put into place an environmental-policy planning tool. From paper sourcing to list hygiene to waste reduction and management, today’s marketers must apply environmental considerations to the entire marketing operation.
Another emerging threat is data privacy and access to marketing data… We do not support an overall privacy regime; instead we support legislation targeted to specific problems, because one solution does not fit all.
MCM: As a New York Yankees fan, do you think Roger Clemens can help the struggling team?
Greco: Given the state of the Yankees pitching staff, the addition of Clemens couldn’t hurt. I welcome him back with open arms. And for people who question his contract and all the money afforded him, I say: It’s all what you can negotiate. That’s a great lesson in baseball—and in business.