DMA: Greco resignation sets stage for continuing reform

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New York—The abrupt resignation January 19 of John Greco as president-CEO of the Direct Marketing Association is the latest, most dramatic step in what has been a tumultuous period for the association.

Greco resigned after more than five years in the position, following a year that saw several waves of staff layoffs, falling attendance at several DMA events and a groundswell of membership discontent over the association's management and direction.

“We were very upfront about what our objectives were last year, and this association now is moving forward in a positive direction, in the best interests of the membership,” said Gerry Pike, managing director of DMSA Inc. and a DMA board member.

Pike led a membership movement last summer to influence the direction of the association. He and others complained about the association's level of political advocacy on behalf of direct marketing and moves they considered violations of the association's bylaws in setting Greco's compensation.

Things were partly resolved at a business meeting Oct. 18 during the DMA's annual conference and exposition in San Diego. Pike was retained on the board, and room was made for several new, reform-minded candidates.

Eugene Raitt, senior VP-accident and health and CMO Asia for Allied World Assurance Co., named DMA's new chairman in October, was credited at the time with reaching out to disaffected members and accommodating them with new board positions.

“We are grateful for John's able service and dedication to the Direct Marketing Association over the past five years,” Raitt said in a statement. “We wish him much success with his future endeavors.”

DMA confirmed that Greco's departure was voluntary. However, the association's direction and leadership were prominent topics of discussion at its winter meeting this month in Naples, Fla., according to participants.

“John decided that this was the best way for the organization to move forward to its next chapter,” said Matt Blumberg, CEO-chairman of Return Path and one of the newly added board members.

The DMA said a committee to search for Greco's successor will be formed shortly.

“We haven't published formal criteria yet, but the general sentiment is that we'll be looking for a different kind of leader than DMA has had in the past, someone capable of running a significant trade association, managing our advocacy in Washington, D.C., and who also is a significant thought leader in interactive marketing,” Blumberg said.

An interim president-CEO will be announced next week, according to the association.

Greco was not immediately available for comment.

The association's future direction and focus is uncertain. Some members have complained that it has not moved fast enough to embrace interactive marketing. However, others said the more traditional areas of direct and database marketing were being neglected to focus on digital channels.

“I know a lot of members have needed the association to address some of the smaller and midsize companies a bit more effectively,” said John Papalia, president of database company Statlistics. “The reform movement has helped get this started.”

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