November 2006 - 2006-2007 ERA Chairman

ERA Chairman Rick Petry. . . Seriously

By Paige H. Muller

Unlike typical general sessions where talking heads stand before a podium to make their carefully timed and prepared remarks, Rick Petry made his first official appearance as ERA’s new chairman of the Board at the association’s recent opening general session in Las Vegas from the back of the room. He then proceeded to give his address to the audience as he made his way to the front of the room.

Petry further bucked the status quo at the convention’s closing event, the 2006 ERA Awards, where his “Tootsie-esque” impersonation was prominently featured in the opening vignette that was set to Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “Luck Be a Lady Tonight.”

Clearly, the word typical and Rick Petry do not belong in the same sentence, but he does have his serious moments, as evidenced in the following one-on-one interview.

ERA: What qualities do you think you possess that led to your election as chairman of ERA?
I’d prefer to let others speculate on that. I’ll just say that I like to think of myself as a progressive thinker and consensus builder and hope that my colleagues agree! I call it as I see it, but never lose sight of the fact that this is a fun and creative business, and I hope people appreciate that.

ERA: How would you describe your leadership style?
My management style is participative and collaborative, but I also see my job as making sure we stay on task and not get “into the weeds” too much. There’s plenty of those growing around us.

ERA: You and Jeff Knowles are opposites in a lot of ways. Should membership expect a radical shift in focus from what was implemented during his term?
Human nature is to gravitate to what one knows. We’ve had legal professionals as chairs that have done a tremendous job of getting our government affairs and self-regulation programs up and running at a robust level. I’m a marketing guy, so I think you’ll see a much greater emphasis on articulating what I call ERA 2.0. In ERA 1.0, we were principally a DRTV organization that began to employ other tactics such as online, radio and catalog. With ERA 2.0, we evolve into a multi-channel direct marketing group that is really about a methodology- direct-to-consumer marketing-vs. any single channel. ERA’s future branding and programs will fully embrace that.

ERA: In politics, the first “100 days” can set the tone for the rest of an official’s term of service and provide clues to what’s to come in the following days. What tops your agenda for the first 100 days of your chairmanship?
ERA must walk its talk and reflect the multi-channel realities of today’s marketplace. We’re not going to dictate to our consumers where and when they transact with us, they are going to tell us. ERA is the progressive group that gets that and offers relevance and value through networking, thought leadership and advocacy. My goal is that all aspects of ERA reinforce these principles.

ERA: Are there any particular areas that concern you regarding the association or the industry overall?
As the business has matured, some have resorted to marketing bogus products and counterfeiting. Such actions tar the entire industry because they erode consumer confidence, and that puts a significant burden on ERA to “do something.” While we cannot replace international law, as an organization, we need to take the lead and do what we can to clean up this mess through self-regulation or face the ire of government regulators.

ERA: I’ve heard you talk a great deal about the need to brand ERA. What is your vision of the “ERA brand?”
On TV, Online and On Radio just isn’t going to get it done in our ever- changing, converging world. We are really about a methodology-direct- to-consumer marketing-and ERA’s brand needs to stand for that.

ERA: As you know, branding an organization is about more than just messaging and new logos; it requires buy-in from stakeholders and a change in culture. What will you do to bring this about?
The change is already happening because ERA is filled with a great many progressive thinkers and those who “get it.” Gone are the days where a handful of foot draggers are given a disproportionate share of voice. The “good old days” are gone forever and our membership gets that. It is time for us to redefine the new marketing model and all you have to do is look around to see how much marketing communications-from traditional television advertising to iTV to branded entertainment-contain elements of direct marketing. So I say, carpe diem!

Rick Petry
Chief Marketing Officer,
Petry is CMO at which provides post-production services to DRTV advertisers such as Bowflex, ConAir and MSN; designs, installs and manages media content environments for corporate centers such as Cisco and Freightliner; and maintains a networks division that delivers satellite-based film and video content at retail for the likes of Nike. Formerly, Petry was president of agency services and a partner at Euro RSCG DRTV, the largest domestic full-service direct response television agency. A veteran of NBC with over 15 years of experience in advertising and marketing, Petry maintains operational oversight of the agency’s turnkey services and provides expertise as a frequent industry speaker and author. He pens an irreverent column for Electronic Retailer entitled, “Per Inquiry.”

ERA: Defining the value proposition of a product or organization is usually one of the first steps in any branding campaign. What do you think is ERA’s value proposition and has the association fulfilled that expectation?
I believe it varies depending on who you are, but baseline ERA does a few things extremely well:

  • Incredible networking opportunities where a ton of peer-to-peer business gets transacted.
  • The only direct marketing voice of significance in Washington fighting the good fight on key legislative issues such as self-regulation and net neutrality. Any direct marketer with a sense of duty and interest in preserving their business should understand how important this one element is and alone is a reason to be a member. What happens legislatively in America influences other governments across the globe.
  • A formidable amount of thought leadership delivered via Electronic Retailer magazine, the website and the conferences.

ERA: The interest in direct response from mainstream advertisers has exploded, yet the perception among this audience is that DR is about selling products, not brands. How can ERA help counter this opinion and attract more Madison Avenue advertisers to the association?
I believe if we take the first two years of content from Electronic Retailer, unbundle it and make it readily available through keyword searches on the web, the Fortune 1000 companies will realize we are a sophisticated, progressive group that can help them achieve accountable advertising goals. That is the most natural path into ERA and why making this information readily available on the web is one of my imperatives for the next year.

ERA: The Board recently approved seven new board members. What qualities were you looking for in these new recruits?
Because we are such a diverse group in terms of our businesses as well as our multi-cultural orientation, the key has been to try and build a group that [can take] that diversity into account so that as we move forward the Board has a solid grip on the varying realities of the marketplace. After all, ERA only exists if it is relevant to its constituencies. The process is never without controversy and the rap I heard this year is that the old DRTV guard got too much play. I think this point of view fails to take into account that, although many of those elected and the companies they represent may have begun with an emphasis on DRTV, their businesses have changed to reflect today’s multi-channel reality.

Paige H. Muller is ERA’s vice president, marketing communications. She can be reached at (703) 908-1020, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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