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DMA's Cerasale Announces Retirement; Replacement Hired

9/10/13

By Ken Magill

After serving for 19 years as the Direct Marketing Association’s senior vice president, government affairs, Jerry Cerasale has announced he is retiring at the end of the year.

Cerasale has been in charge of the DMA’s contact with Congress, all federal agencies, and state and local governments.

He is being replaced by long-time Washington lobbyist Peggy Hudson.

While Hudson is admittedly not yet quite up to speed on the legislative issues marketers face, she apparently knows her way around Washington.

She also has another important qualification: Experience working in an industry that regularly comes under attack. Hudson did a stint as vice president, federal and international affairs of BP America.

As a result she also has some crises-management experience on which she hopefully will not have to draw for marketers.

“I left before the spill [off the coast of Louisiana],” she said. “But I was there when we had the blowup at the Texas City refinery [in 2005.] And I was there when we shut down Prudhoe Bay” [in Alaska as the result of an oil spill.] And I was there when we had a propane trading-violation case.”

According to a statement put out by the DMA, Hudson has also successfully led lobbying on a number of initiatives, including three comprehensive energy bills; a bill supporting the Alaska Gas Pipeline; legislation on highway and airport construction; and legislation to increase the deductibility of small business health insurance costs.

When asked what she believes are marketing’s biggest challenges, she said: “Recognizing that I’ve been here three days … three days of meetings, obviously privacy is our biggest challenge. It’s my hope that we keep DMA in a leadership role with it.”

Hudson said she and DMA CEO Linda Woolley started their careers in Washington around the same time and have known each other for years.

“We’ve sort of grown up in the ranks together,” she said. “Even though we represented different industries, people in Washington talk to one another and go to hearings together.

“What appeals to me about DMA is the industry is changing and the opportunity for an association that has been around for 90-plus years to reinvent itself,” she added. “We are really on the cusp of reinventing the industry.”

As for Cerasale, he said that after he retires at the end of the year, he and his wife will move to Cape Cod, MA.

“My wife retired in June,” he said. “She looked at me and said; ‘Jer, the beach is calling.’ So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re moving to Cape Cod and we’re starting a new adventure.”

He recounted a conversation he had early in his DMA tenure with then-CEO Jonah Gitlitz where Gitlitz expressed frustration with some issue challenging direct marketing at the time.

“He [Gitlitz] said: ‘When do these issues go away?’ I said: ‘When we lose.’ He didn’t like the answer but I guess the good thing is the issues haven’t gone away so we haven’t lost yet,” said Cerasale.

Indeed, they certainly haven’t gone away. Multiplied is more like it. For example the issue of states wanting to tax sales made by out-of-state catalogers has morphed into an Internet taxation debate.

Other issues have morphed, as well.

“When I started in ‘95, one of the first jobs I had was to go to an FTC workshop and get it so the Federal Trade Commission didn’t say you couldn’t have commercial advertising on the Internet,” he said. “One of the things that came up back then and it comes up every time was: ‘Without this strong privacy legislation people won’t trust ecommerce.’ But look at the growth of ecommerce. Marketers are providing people what they want. The constant harangue on privacy is just wrong.”

Cerasale said one of the most interesting issues he has worked on over the years has been, of all things, taxation.

“While I was here marketers themselves changed from being totally remote sellers to getting stores and going the 360 route,” he said.

As the DMA’s membership evolved, it became less unified in its opposition to states collecting taxes on sales made by sellers outside their borders.

So the DMA changed its position from being against states taxing beyond their borders to one of calling for sales-tax simplification.

“That was the most interesting from the point of view of being in an association, seeing the marketplace change and trying to still defend members who haven’t changed that much and not angering and pushing aside other DMA members,” Cerasale said. “In the tax area, the marketplace changed on us and we had to work that out.”

By comparison, he said, the DMA’s position on privacy and postal issues has remained fairly constant.

He said his biggest frustrations have been in the postal arena, and the FTC’s lukewarm reaction to the Ad Choices initiative.

“We worked long and hard in 2006 to get [postal] legislation passed and because of the economy it didn’t work,” he said. “The other thing that was frustrating for me was working on the Digital Advertising Alliance and getting that whole online privacy self-regulatory program put together with lots of discussion, lots of changes, lots of angst and lots of money, and having the Federal Trade Commission say: ‘We like it, but it’s not enough.’”

He added that the most important piece of advice he plans to leave Hudson with is the importance of forming coalitions.

“One of the accomplishments I had here was getting the DMA into the mindset of working in coalitions,” he said. “I will try and explain to her [Hudson] the issues, but if anything I will try and impress that coalitions are the way to go.”

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