DIRECT: VIEWPOINT - We’re not the masters of the universe, we’re just doing our job well

By RORY SUTHERLAND, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 07 November 1997 12:00AM

Ask any animal psychologist. They’ll tell you that, if you want a ferocious dog, shower it randomly with praise and punishment. Which may explain the snappy reaction Campaign received from direct marketing agencies over the top 30 direct marketing agencies table (10 October issue).

Ask any animal psychologist. They’ll tell you that, if you want a

ferocious dog, shower it randomly with praise and punishment. Which may

explain the snappy reaction Campaign received from direct marketing

agencies over the top 30 direct marketing agencies table (10 October

issue).



Backbite wrote of these agencies the following week: ’By all means yell

when you think you’ve been dealt a disservice by Campaign, but remember

to send us the evidence to prove that what you’re doing is about to take

over the world.’



Campaign asked me for my response, and I’m happy to give it. Make up

your minds. Because one minute, it seems, we’re lowly purveyors of

direct mail, next we’re the new masters of the universe.



Now, I can’t speak for a whole industry, but it strikes me that this

’take over the world’ stuff does not emanate from direct marketers.

Rather, it comes from the world of advertising, which has developed a

peculiar fascination with predicting its own demise, and our ascendancy.

Every issue of Campaign now comes lined with articles on the death of

the 30-second spot, the perils of media fragmentation, or the blinkered

view of conventional agencies.



Against this backdrop, it’s harsh to blame our industry for raising its

voice. Or to berate us for failing to focus exclusively on our creative

zealotry, when Messrs Hinton and Sorrell have chided ad agencies for

doing precisely that. Likewise, it seems a little rough to attack us for

what you call our ’techno-logic’ when the ad industry is flagellating

itself over the threat from those (rarely plain-spoken) management

consultants.



I don’t know how real these threats are to the ad industry but I’m only

cautiously optimistic about the opportunity for our own. True,

technology may help, but this isn’t a new debate. More than 20 years

ago, David Ogilvy described himself as ’a voice crying in the

wilderness’ in preaching the value of other media. Decades on, most

major advertisers trust about the same proportion of adspend to

30-second TV spots as they did then.



If we can’t change the future, we can at least change advertising’s

mind.



Call on us, or on WCJ, FCA!, Limbo or Craik Jones and you will find a

quiet confidence that, judiciously used, direct marketing can complement

or enhance the brand-building power of advertising. You’ll find the same

pride in our work for, say, the Vegetarian Society, Lotus, Royal Mail,

Cellnet, D&AD or Barnardos as at any good ad agency. Dare I say it,

you’ll now find a comparable standard of work.



True, you may find some direct marketing evangelism. But remember, I am

a direct marketing evangelist in the same way that I am also a radio

advertising evangelist: simply because these less fashionable forms need

vocal supporters. When you are in the wilderness, crying is the only way

to get heard.



Rory Sutherland is creative director at OgilvyOne.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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