Ad Age Publishes DMA CEO's Letter Responding to Direct Mail and the Environment Article
April 28, 2008 — Advertising Age today published DMA President & CEO John A. Greco, Jr.’s letter to the editor in response to an April 21 article by Michael Bush entitled “To Direct Mailers, Green Means One Thing: Cash.”
The following is the complete text of Mr. Greco’s letter to the editor, which was delivered to Advertising Age on Tuesday, April 22.
To visit DMA’s online Environmental Resource Center, click here.
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Dear Mr. Bloom:
This correspondence is in response to the Michael Bush article published in the April 21st print and online editions of Advertising Age, headlined “To Direct Mailers, Green Means One Thing: Cash”.
We are well aware of the Forrester Research study and the inclusion of direct marketers in this most recent report. My purpose in writing is to take issue with the exclusion of the Direct Marketing Association’s position on the report’s findings, despite a 20-minute interview between Mr. Bush and Jerry Cerasale, DMA’s senior vice president of government affairs. The key points Mr. Cerasale provided Advertising Age are not represented anywhere in the story to the detriment, in fact, of our association if not the entire direct marketing community.
Frankly stated, yes, direct marketers are cost-conscious, just as any business seeks operational efficiencies on a daily basis. However, Advertising Age’s reporting is overly simplistic in positioning direct marketers as solely focused on cost. Indeed, the report itself contains findings, in addition to the data Mr. Cerasale provided, that directly support how the direct marketing community has been committed for more than a decade to preserving the environment.
In fact, the report’s recommendations — cautiously promoting green activities; don’t assume being green conflicts with saving money; develop an industry set of standards — have been a part of direct marketing operating standards for several years.
Furthermore, the report’s statistical relevance is hardly representative of the direct marketing community, with only 55 people purportedly talking on behalf of a $600 billion business involving multiple millions of people across the United States. I also would take issue with its timing, and Forrester’s seeming unwillingness to seek input, if not a response, from DMA before releasing what is at best a wholly incomplete view of direct marketers’ environmental efforts.
Even more specifically, as Mr. Bush was told:
· Our mail preference service, www.dmachoice.org, allows consumers to easily manage their mail. Last year, this self-regulatory program prevented 930 million mailings. We are committed to continuously helping consumers to express their choices.
· Our direct marketing community requires its members to follow Commitment to Consumer Choice (CCC) guidelines, which empowers consumers with choice — to address privacy concerns, volume of mail received, and environmental issues. We have implemented a monitoring process to ensure compliance, which will give consumers more of what they want, and less of what they don’t want.
· Our catalog members are constantly seeking ways to conserve natural resources, from recycling misprints and paper scraps from their marketing materials to reducing the width and weight of catalogs. This makes environmental sense, and is also good business sense because postal rates are based on weight and shape.
· Our direct marketers are working with city and county governments on ways to increase the number of areas where people can recycle mixed paper; printers are switching to soy-based ink; and our members are considering new types of lighting in their facilities to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions — again, all environmentally significant, as well as good business sense.
· Our direct marketers have been instrumental in reducing CO2 emissions and energy usage as the result of catalog and/or direct mail shopping. In fact, by replacing just two shopping trips to the mall each year, Americans eliminate 3.3 billion driving miles, reduce emissions by 3 billion pounds, and save more than $490 million on gas costs.
We recognize our responsibility, and in fact, the research points out that direct marketers have reduced the volume of mail and engaged in environmentally active initiatives.
Can more be done? Of course, and our members recognize that, as well. We offered your publication additional background, also omitted in the reporting and the Forrester research, about “The Green 15” — environmental commitments adopted one year ago encouraging the direct marketing community to focus on paper procurement and use; data management to reduce undeliverable mail; mail design and production [reducing paper size, for example]; product packaging; recycling and pollution reduction.
We value our environmental responsibility, and responses from a few should not be taken as an indictment against the entire direct marketing community, particularly when you consider that any dispassionate discussion about corporate social responsibility should always include a companion discussion about economic responsibility to those being directly affected — employees, businesses, communities, and of course, the environment.
As we pointed out to Mr. Bush, there has been substantial progress among many direct marketers. More is being achieved daily as our community works diligently on “self regulation” rather than regulatory mandates on businesses that are critical to the economic well-being of communities throughout the United States.
Indeed, 18 months ago, DMA worked with the Envelope Manufacturers Association and the Magazine Publishers of America in getting a staff opinion from the Federal Trade Commission that would enable our members to put a recycle logo on direct mail pieces. Prior to that, the FTC had a regulation which prohibited the placement of a recycling logo on mail because it was viewed as an unfair business practice. To be clear, the ability for any direct marketer to even place a recycled logo on a catalog was illegal until just recently, thus inhibiting our ability to alert consumers that a catalog, or some other direct marketing piece, was printed on recyclable paper.
There should be no misinterpretation of the Forrester report’s findings, or our intent in talking to Advertising Age — there has been significant, measurable progress in the direct marketing community’s contributions to the inescapable connections between the environmental and business practices that help guide our members.
John A. Greco, Jr.
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