MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Clients will bypass agencies to create the direct solution

The media industry is clearly more full of holes than a Ron Davies statement if the number of new media agencies who claim to have discovered a gap in the market is anything to go by.

The media industry is clearly more full of holes than a Ron Davies

statement if the number of new media agencies who claim to have

discovered a gap in the market is anything to go by.



Last week it was Quantum, a joint venture between Booth Lockett Makin

and Paul Longhurst (see Headliner), sticking its flag firmly in what it

insists is unclaimed territory.



Now, one of the gaps Quantum hopes to plug is the one which direct

response advertisers apparently keep falling down when they try to get

to grips with the new-media future, the hole which yawns ever wider as

technology improves and the prospect of interactive TV advertising

looms.



That this particular hole really needs stuffing right now, Quantum will

no doubt work hard to prove. But it’s not one that other agencies are

simply sidestepping. It takes a lot to get hardened media men excited,

but mention direct marketing to your average media chief right now and

watch them drool. OK, maybe the pound signs in their eyes are a bit of a

giveaway, but there is genuine interest from the media community in

investing in the direct marketing discipline.



Yet one quite astounding piece of news last week suggests that whatever

inroads agencies are making to get under the skin of their clients’

direct marketing communications needs, some marketers are taking matters

into their own hands. Unilever, Cadbury-Schweppes and Kimberly-Clark are

getting together to launch their own magazine next year which will be

door-dropped to a million homes in a bid to drive awareness, sampling

and loyalty to their brands. As these clients don’t have the sort of

brands which lend themselves to interactive TV advertising (can’t see

myself sitting through a half-hour promotional video for Huggies), it’s

hardly surprising that they’re looking at a simpler method of direct

communication.



At a stroke the magazine will reach more people than all but a handful

of newsstand titles. With editorial comprising recipes, household tips

and competitions it won’t be the most scintillating of reads, but throw

in a few celebrity interviews and - crucially - some money-off coupons,

with editions targeted at different demographic and lifestage groups,

and the chances are it won’t go straight in the bin.



While no-one is suggesting that the idea will see swathes cut from

above-the-line marketing budgets, it’s a sobering indication of how some

advertisers may respond to the issue of media fragmentation,

particularly when it’s allied to the need to drive loyalty in the face

of own-label supermarket products.



Perhaps traditional direct marketing is enough of a new sand-pit for

most media agencies right now. But rather than simply investing in the

direct marketing present, agencies need to invest in the direct

marketing future. Clearly their clients can’t and won’t wait and

see.



Comment, page 51



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Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).