DIRECT MARKETING: Global DM hotshops

From cool dudes to fainting models, Ian Harding and Shaun McIlrath of Impact FCA explain how two agencies are kicking up a storm in direct marketing

From cool dudes to fainting models, Ian Harding and Shaun McIlrath of

Impact FCA explain how two agencies are kicking up a storm in direct



In the dark heart of consumerism, at a place appropriately named

Purchase, lie the headquarters of PepsiCo Inc. This battle-hardened

marketing bunker is home to the heroes of the Cola wars who, a few years

ago, before they had reason to be blue, stumbled upon something of a

brand triumph.

Mountain Dew is Pepsi’s fastest- growing beverage brand. The

advertising, through BBDO, features a group of wacky young slackers,

known as the Dew Dudes, who air-surf, abseil, parajump, bungee - you

name it - while imploring you to Do the Dew.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. PepsiCo has lifted Mountain

Dew’s brand personality lock, stock and barrel and slipped it into the

UK as a line extension of the parent brand. Yup, it’s PepsiMax. But the

marketing genius didn’t stop there. This summer in the US, PepsiCo

launched the Dew Extreme Network, issuing pagers to hundreds of

thousands of teenagers.

Why? Well, it was Olympic summer in the US, which meant drinks companies

spent billions of dollars trying to swamp each other in a desperate bid

to grab the ‘thirst dollar’. Instead of going head-to-head on

advertising, PepsiCo went direct to the market - distributing pagers in

exchange for ten proofs of purchase and dollars 30.

In return, a whole generation of Dew Dudes got six months free paging

and, once a week, an individual message about a freephone number where

they could win prizes and enter competitions. The voice messages feature

sports stars and entertainers and more than 20 companies are offering

give-aways and discounts, including MTV, Pizza Hut, Sony Music, Burton

Snowboards, Wave Sports, Universal Studios and Harley-Davidson Apparel.

It’s DM to die for. Cheap, innovative, ongoing communication to a

captive market. There are also many brand benefits from positive

association and value-added offers.

Add to this the fact that parents and school groups are kicking up a

stink in the press because pagers have a certain ‘street-cache’ from

their previous association with drug dealing, and you have a sure-fire

youth-market winner.


Jon Bond, the enigmatic leader of the New York hotshop, Kirshenbaum Bond

and Partners, understands prejudices. ‘Within traditional advertising

there exists a clearly delineated creative hierarchy, with TV at the top

and print at the bottom,’ he says. He describes below-the-line work as

‘ideas too big to fit on TV’, and his clarion cry is for creative

liberation from ‘the confines of traditional media’.

The meteoric rise of Bond’s agency pays testimony to his vision. It also

puts paid to the idea that direct marketing can’t build a brand - KBP is

the most talked about agency in the US.

We first heard about KBP in connection with its work for Snapple. The

agency had been briefed to launch Mango-flavoured Snapple in the US with

a tiny budget. In most ad agencies this brief would have led to a small

trade press ad - in most DM agencies, to a trade mailer. Instead, KBP

looked more closely at the problem and discovered that there was only

one major importer of mangoes into the US. They did a deal allowing them

to put a sticker on every mango coming into the country saying, ‘now

available in Snapple’.

For the launch of Bamboo Lingerie, KBP again defied the limitations of

conventional media by creating ‘sidewalk stencils’ which were sprayed on

the pavements of New York reading: ‘From where we are, it looks like you

need new lingerie.’ For the launch of a liqueur, they placed ice

sculptures of the logo on hot beaches in trendy South Beach, Miami, and

left them to melt during the day. And for Smalto men’s fragrance they

placed models in stores and paid them to faint at the feet of men who’d

been sprayed with the cologne, breathlessly muttering ‘you make me


The strength of these ideas is that they don’t look like or feel like

advertising but they’re about as direct as you can get, cutting through

the shield consumers erect against lazy messages.

The last word goes to Bond, who says: ‘My advice to creatives is to get

out of advertising. There’s a lot of virgin territory out there.’


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