Direct Approach: Shout it loud shout it proud

By Suzanne Bidlake, associate editor (reports), Campaign, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 05 October 2007 12:00AM

It's about time that direct marketers demonstrated to the world at large just how diverse and varied their discipline is.

What's in a name? Not much you may think if you're of the same school as the insouciant parents of a certain Russell Sprout.

Some names, however, appear innocuous at first, but attain notoriety by virtue of a wind that changes throughout the course of a lifetime.

A thirtysomething christened either Gordon Brown or Victoria Beckham may have sailed through childhood without an eyebrow raised, only to find the mention of their name greeted variously with admiration or derision as they navigate adulthood.

So what has this got to do with direct marketing? Lots.

DM, the common term for this age-old marketing discipline, is the same as that used for direct mail, which has, over the years, become synonymous with "junk mail" - the hated, environment-damaging, money-wasting, doormat-clogging scourge that got thousands of people so incensed that they marched on Parliament in protest just last year.

It may not be the fault of the majority of responsible DMers (that's direct marketers), but sadly for them, they are now branded the same as DMers (that's direct mailers), who still face a massive clean-up job on the PR front.

And yet, DM (direct marketing) has so much more to shout about. In fact, DM (direct mail) is now a small proportion of most agencies' business and savvy marketers are using it mainly to send out premium-quality communications to high-end customers such as the owners of swanky cars or heavy investors in financial products.

As the essayists in this book reveal, there is so much more that DM agencies are concerning themselves with right now. What to do about the environmental impact, where has the culture of testing gone, how to take ownership of digital communication, the need to promote measurement and accountability, how to feel comfortable with the shift in brand/consumer power, and so on.

In common with practitioners of every other marketing discipline, DM agencies believe their time has come: this is the era of personally targeted, one-to-one communication that can be tracked and measured, after all.

And they may be right.

But before anyone who is not already converted will get near to believing that (and investing mega-budgets), DM needs to do a much better job of promoting itself. It has to talk up its game and not be apologetic. It needs to get out a bit more, show that it can be sexy, that it can hold an audience at a party.

The industry players featured in the following pages all have fascinating takes on the state of the industry; their views are provocative, entertaining and insightful. There's no lack of gravitas or chutzpah in DM. We just need to hear more of it.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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