SPOTLIGHT ON: DIRECT MARKETING: Has integration come of age as media shops plan ahead? - As Royal Mail goes to TMD, Richard Cook looks at the status of direct marketing

If proof were needed that the media industry has evolved further and faster than most areas of advertising in recent years, it was found in last week’s news of Royal Mail’s pounds 20 million media review (Campaign, 21 November).

If proof were needed that the media industry has evolved further

and faster than most areas of advertising in recent years, it was found

in last week’s news of Royal Mail’s pounds 20 million media review

(Campaign, 21 November).



The account had come down to a three-way shoot-out between the

incumbent, MediaVest, BMP Optimum and TMD Carat. Nothing too surprising

there: MediaVest had held the business since 1992 and was widely thought

to have performed more than merely creditably on the account, while the

others are suitably large buyers with contrasting styles.



Even when TMD picked up the business, nothing seemed particularly

unusual.



True, the client paid more fulsome praise than is perhaps usual to the

efforts of Media-Vest. What was unusual was what Derek Fairhurst, the

marketing controller for Royal Mail, went on to say. The key reason for

the appointment of TMD, he said, was that the agency had impressed with

its more integrated approach to media planning.



Unusual when you consider that, not long ago, merely coupling the words

’integrated’ and ’media’ in the same sentence would simply have prompted

a shrug of the shoulders and a suitably baffled look. Now Mark Craze,

the managing director of TMD, says the whole field of direct marketing

is a priority investment area for Carat.



As Fairhurst says: ’Planning and buying agencies will need to respond by

positioning all forms of communication, including direct mail, alongside

TV, press and outdoor when planning the media mix.’



So is this a firm signal that the integrated advertising approach has

finally broken down the last barriers of resistance in the media world?

After all, with the prospect of one of these pounds 20 million accounts

dangling enticingly, one can see several media agencies that could

quickly establish impeccable integrated agendas.



Well, maybe. It should be borne in mind that Royal Mail is no ordinary

client. It doesn’t just look upon direct mail merely as an effective

means of conveying its advertising message but, uniquely, sees the

industry as a considerable profit centre in its own right.



Indeed, more than one of the pitching agencies was dismayed to find that

the importance of the direct marketing element was not outlined at the

beginning of the review process, and that when it was eventually spelled

out, there was rather less emphasis on the marketing side of it and

rather more on the mail.



’I’m not sure how much you can read into this in terms of a blueprint

for how media companies should structure themselves,’ the boss of one of

the pitching companies, who preferred not to be named, says. ’It was

clear Royal Mail had special media requirements, and its own agenda on

direct mail.’



Interested outsiders saw the process in a less machiavellian light. ’I

think clients are accepting how important it is to deal with companies

that are media neutral; that is to say, not pre-disposed towards one

medium or another because of certain historic ties or for reasons of

cost,’ Mike Dodds, the managing partner at OgilvyOne in charge of the

agency’s Royal Mail account, says. ’But there aren’t many above-the-line

media agencies with the necessary direct marketing expertise.’



Certainly the TMD of old would have struggled to fit into that

particular category. This was an agency that would have bridled at the

description ’media neutral’, and which prided itself on its abilities in

the TV buying market. But nowadays, direct marketing is at the top of

the agenda. As it is for other media companies eager not to give clients

any reason, no matter how trivial, to leave their names off

pitch-lists.



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