Direct Marketing: Special Report

Apart from snooker, rowing, darts, binge-drinking and giant vegetable-growing there isn't much the Brits can claim to be best at anymore. So it was rather depressing for the UK's direct marketing community when it was toppled as the most-awarded country at Cannes this summer, narrowly losing out to the resurgent Germans.

But why? Had it simply been an off-year? A bout of anglophobia among the judges perhaps? Or had the rest of the world caught up (see page 33)?

No-one really thinks creativity has dried up. But there is a feeling that the UK's DM agencies are hampered by a deep-running conservatism that is slowing their momentum.

When he arrived in the UK from his native Australia, Stuart Archibald, a managing partner at the integrated agency Archibald Ingall Stretton, says he couldn't believe how traditional the UK market was, and indeed still is. This is because Australia is a market with a far less visible "line". Integrated advertising has long existed in its agency cultures, hence the Aussies seem to punch above their weight in awards shows.

In the UK, however, DM practitioners are forever being told they are "below" the line, so it's hardly surprising that, as Archibald and Proximity's Chris Thomas point out (page 37), DM people lack the swagger typical of ad agency culture.

As refreshing as down-to-earth sorts are in marketing nowadays, self-belief is likely to become increasingly important for DM agencies. Advertising Association figures released this month predict that direct mail spend (still by far direct marketing's biggest discipline) will fall by 3.3 per cent this year - a bigger drop than for any other medium. And with profits still under strain following the recession (this page), it is imperative the UK's DM agencies continue to produce world-beating work.


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