With direct response advertising, there’s no hiding place; work is
measured by results. Scary. ‘It’s both terrifying and gratifying,’ Steve
Harrison, creative director of O&M Direct, agrees. ‘There’s certainly no
room for art for art’s sake.’ Still, the erudite, softly spoken
northerner has undoubtedly felt more gratification than terror of late.
Since Harrison took on the top creative job in 1991, O&M Direct’s
campaigns for blue-chip clients such as IBM, British Telecom and the
Royal Mail have scooped industry awards by the truck load and proved
there is more to it than deciding where to put the coupon.
A wizard with long copy, Harrison was at first reluctant to swap writing
for managing O&M Direct’s creative department, which currently has 14
teams. But he has contrived to keep his hand in. ‘I approve every piece
of copy we produce,’ he reveals, ‘so I still have to do a fair amount of
tweaking and restructuring.’
He also encourages an integrated approach to media, which allows for
ingenious one-offs. A recent ad for Bupa DentalCare, for instance, was
placed along a row of boxed-off small ads, creating the impression of a
set of teeth; the copy was reversed out of the single, blackened
‘We’ve no snobbery for any particular medium,’ Harrison explains. ‘We
choose the best medium for a particular marketing problem.’ With more
traditional direct mail, Harrison is wary of gimmicks - unless, of
course, they are germane to the product.
A mailer for Disneyland Paris arrives in a tube: it’s printed black on
the outside apart from an inch at the top and bottom, so when you pull
it out you appear to be holding a hollow paper wand. Then simply unroll
it for details of the offer.
Harrison is proud of his own department, yet he is surprisingly scathing
about the direct response market as a whole. ‘The majority of direct
response advertising doesn’t deserve a lot of respect,’ he says. ‘You
have to earn it.’ O&M Direct is doing its bit.