Close-Up: 'I don't want to debate the direct mail medium'

Chris Whitson, the newly appointed chairman of the IPA Direct Marketing Group, outlines his agenda for the next year.

Create the platform

The break-up of digital shops into separate disciplines will happen just as it did with the breakaway of direct marketing from advertising. It's just a matter of when. If the Direct Marketing Group is to represent the industry as a whole, it must embrace the various different types of direct marketer, such as digital specialists and media specialists. We will only succeed if we can unite practitioners of the discipline, whatever the channel.

I don't want to spend my time debating the direct mail medium. It is a key part of the DM mix but it is not the only part, and as the modern consumer becomes more digitally literate its role will diminish. I will be actively looking to bring representatives from IPA member direct, media and digital agencies to take their place on the group.

Change the Charter

The IPA Direct Marketing Group produced the DM Charter in 2004. It's encouraging that many issues it uncovered have proven to be correct but I feel we need to revisit it and produce a new document that reflects best practice thinking in the current climate, something that helps member agencies as they ply their trade in the current communications environment.

Win back the hearts and minds

A lot has been written about the "opt-in vs opt-out" debate. Frankly, it is all rather academic. Consumers are opting out at alarmingly high rates and whether trade bodies choose to put their weight behind opt-in or opt-out doesn't make a blind bit of difference.

The reality is that we should be working hard to encourage consumers to opt-in. It's common sense that if they see a value in the communications they receive, they are more likely to respond and engage with it. We've talked about a more empowered consumer, but what we should also do now is ask them what they want from us.

I'd like to create a research piece that helps the industry understand what it must do to win back the hearts of our audience. There is a great deal of insight within the IPA and I believe an investigation like this might allow us to move on from opt-in vs opt-out and concentrate on best practice.

Invest in the talent

I am immensely proud of the work the Direct Marketing Group has already done to create the IPA Summer School. The idea was not only to provide a group of students with a summer placement but also, using key industry individuals, to provide them with a syllabus that helps them understand more about our industry.

The standard of entries this year was extremely high and we must continue to invest in the Summer School to give us the best possible chance of securing the best graduate talent available.

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