Live from DM Co-op: DMA’s Greco on the New “Three R’s”

White Plains, NY–Technology has given direct marketers more ways of getting their messages to the masses than ever before, but consumers also have more ways to turn off those lines of communication, Direct Marketing Association president John Greco said in his April 27 keynote speech at the Direct Media Client Conference and Co-op.

“Advancing technology has provided unprecedented choices for marketers to connect with buyers,” Greco said. “But that same technology has empowered buyers to control they way they connect with marketers and the kind of interaction they are willing to have with them.”

Greco cited his own teenagers as an example of new ways marketers are getting their messages across. His children are marketed to via iPods, cell phones, digital cable, video on demand, and DVDs, as well as through e-mail, search engines, and blogs. But recent inventions such as TiVo allow them to record a show and watch it commercial-free, and they have the right to opt out of certain e-mails or block them with spam filters.

With that in mind, Greco said that direct marketers need to “break through the clutter” to reach even the most elusive customers. He said this could happen with the new “three Rs”: relevance, responsibility, and results.

Responsibility in the direct marketing field, Greco said, should lead to less regulation. Keeping customer data such as social security numbers and credit-card numbers safe from hackers would be the first step, followed by honoring consumers’ preferences of how they want to be contacted.

The lawmakers drafting regulations to protect against security breaches need to understand the difference between personal data and marketing data, Greco continued. For example, if information saying that he likes to buy red ties fell into the wrong hands, it’s just a loss of marketing data, as opposed to credit-card information or other personal data that could lead to identity theft.

“Consumers are increasingly concerned about the level of trust they can place on marketers,” Greco said. “Many people in the legislative world are waiting to regulate direct marketing.” Self-regulation is advised, but may not be enough to keep more bills from popping up in the House and Senate, he warned.

But if direct marketers are relevant with their offers—using data creatively, integrating channels, and tracking responses across those channels—the chance of further direct marketing regulation will be minimized, he believes.

“If we don’t start with self-regulation, and demonstrate we have the responsibility to self-regulate, we know what the optimum will be,” Greco said.