Campaign Report on Creative DM: The client culture - One-to-one marketing can and should be imaginative in its execution. But, Ken Gofton says, the client must cultivate the creative ideology at a grass-roots level to gain long-term results

While many senior managers are now enlightened on the subject of relationship marketing, few take on board the culture which a company needs to inspire consistently strong creative work.

While many senior managers are now enlightened on the subject of

relationship marketing, few take on board the culture which a company

needs to inspire consistently strong creative work.

Of course, you’d expect the Royal Mail to believe fervently in direct

marketing and one-to-one communication. After all, it owns the


Being a big, bureaucratic organisation can sometimes get in the way of

the obvious. But it was committed enough to question its direct

marketing performance and reviewed its approach in the mid-90s.

One result was a drastic pruning of the number of agencies it used, with

Joshua, OgilvyOne and MBO now leading on direct marketing. Another

outcome was the establishment of what it terms its Centre of


’We were using lots of agencies, perhaps 30 or 40, because an

organisation of our size wants to do lots of different things,’ Mark

Bowler, the director for media and home shopping, who is now taking on

responsibility for the Centre of Excellence, says. ’The trouble is, you

lose the synergy and commonality. Also, we were bombarding the customer

base, which was counter-productive.’

The Centre of Excellence is a system for evaluating every mail-shot in

advance. In theory, the best possible score is 100 per cent. Mailings

that did not achieve at least 60 per cent were not allowed to go out

That threshold has since been raised.

Mike Dodd, a management partner at OgilvyOne, says the three core

agencies were suspicious when the Centre of Excellence was launched,

despite being involved in it. However, the Royal Mail’s stance was that

the way it briefed its agencies was more at fault than their standards

of creativity.

’We quickly realised it was a positive move,’ he adds. ’How often do you

get a client who not only has to provide a written brief, but is then

marked on how good the brief is? It is a powerful incentive for any

agency to know that the client is committed to excellence, and to steady


Bowler says: ’To me, targeting comes first. Having identified a specific

audience, you then need something as creative and relevant as possible

to communicate the message. The key is having all the elements working

together. Since the scheme started, the scores have gone up and

standards continue to rise.’

While the Royal Mail has been getting to grips with the DM ethos for

many years, there are others which recognise the need to understand the

process but have nothing in place. Far from sending out too many

mail-shots indiscriminately, Scoot wanted to know if the direct approach

could be used to help its hard-pressed sales team.

Scoot competes with Talking Pages and Yellow Pages. Callers seeking a

plumber, a garage or whatever are given the names of three local

companies, which pay for the privilege of being on Scoot’s books.

Working with Tequila Payne Stracey, the company identified the best

prospects in six sectors - such as the building trades and health and

beauty - which generated masses of consumer calls, but where the sales

team had difficulty signing enough specialists. The agency then

developed an attention-grabbing mailshot for each sector, to soften the

audience ahead of the sales phone call.

The first leg of the evolving campaign is claimed to have produced

incremental sales of pounds 2 million for an outlay of pounds 200,000.

’Creativity has been important,’ Scoot’s marketing manager, John

Helstrip, says. ’What creativity does is cut through the other mail that

people receive. People remember it, they don’t have to ask who you are.

It gives you a standout - standout relevant to the recipient.’

Agencies and clients, of course, must make a consistent effort to stay

in touch with the target audience. DM offers an extra twist, however -

the ability to isolate segments for different creative treatments. So

both client and agency must keep on each other’s toes to make the

communication as relevant as possible to the recipient.

Last year was the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar - a great

creative peg for the wildlife charity, WWF UK, to step up its

fundraising efforts to help save this animal. A campaign expected to

raise pounds 400,000 pulled in more than pounds 540,000.

To achieve this figure, WWF UK exploited its comprehensive database to

adopt what might otherwise have been considered an overconfident


Vital to the campaign’s success was the ability to segment the charity’s

database of existing and potential donors, and tailor the creative

treatment to match the status of the recipient. At one extreme, letters

were sent to almost 600 of the most generous supporters. Of these, 164

responded with cash donations averaging more than pounds 1,000. Yet the

campaign also recruited 8,000 first-time donors.

’It was a tiered approach,’ Howard Saunders, account director at Smith

Bundy Carlson, says. ’Over the last five years in WWF, we have created a

product, not so much a sub-brand as a club, called the Guardians for

people who have given more than pounds 1,000. They received a more

lavish pack, with higher production values. There was an intermediate

version for people likely to give pounds 250-pounds 500, and a basic

version for the mass of donors.

’When we started the Guardians, pounds 1,000 seemed a bold line to draw,

but it has worked well. However, we also recognise the implications of


People who give at these higher levels like to hear how their money is

being spent. We write to them each year to tell them what we are doing.’


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