CAMPAIGN DIRECT: VIEWPOINT - Planners should see direct response work as a key to the future

Two shoe salesmen are on a desert island to check out the market.

Two shoe salesmen are on a desert island to check out the


One sends back a message: ’No opportunities here, no-one wears shoes.’

The other: ’Great opportunity, no-one wears shoes.’ Which are you?

Most ad agency planners appear to be in the former camp. Not for them

the challenge of a new market. But for those who get their kicks from

understanding and changing people’s behaviour and who like the idea of

going where no focus group has gone before, perhaps it’s time to

consider a real opportunity: direct response.

The development, ownership and use of database marketing is now a

necessity for most companies. Databases provide knowledge, knowledge

provides power, and power provides profit. Simple.

Databases are providing the opportunity to communicate not with ’ABC1s’

but with refined consumer segments who have similar behaviour and

attitudes as proven by their actions. But hard data needs interpretation

by consumer specialists - planners.

The traditional focus on response is evolving to encompass awareness and

brand development. The idea that brand advertising cannot incorporate a

definitive call to action is dead. Building brands by direct response is

not the exception but the rule. And brand building needs specialists -


Direct response is also moving from being a tactical to a strategic

tool, which means it needs strategists who understand and can help

formulate marketing plans and business strategies - planners again.

The volume of direct response advertising means that to create impact

demands the same level of creative excellence that any above-the-line

execution requires. A key requirement, therefore, is people to write,

refine or hone the brief.

And yet, because of its heritage, the industry has few ’home grown’


Whether as consumer conscience, brand developer, marketing strategist or

creative planner, the direct response industry is crying out for quality


But there’s a catch. There are few rules in planning below the line;

it’s too new. There’s no tried and tested corporate structure that can

hide the mediocre.

Planning below the line is, therefore, only for people who like the

challenge of being at the beginning of something, where they can either

make an immediate impact on their business - or else.

Given this, why is it that most above-the-line planners would rather

work for the Tory party in Scotland than come below the line? Do they

still see it as the dirty side of the business? Is it that they simply

don’t know the opportunities that exist? Is it that they’re afraid of

having to define planning from scratch?

Or are they’re afraid to offer insights and put themselves on the line

in an accountable environment?

Tod Norman is a planner at Barraclough Hall Woolston Gray.

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