INTEGRATED: INTEGRATED ISSUES; Can the DMA convince punters that direct mail is reliable?

Gordon MacMillan reports on the drive to improve the image of direct marketing

Gordon MacMillan reports on the drive to improve the image of direct


The Direct Marketing Association is launching a campaign to convince

consumers that direct marketing is reliable. But can they really be

persuaded that it is anything other than largely unsolicited junk mail?

The DMA argues that, although consumers understand the benefits of

direct marketing, there are fears about safety and worries about

consumer protection.

To beat this, the DMA is to embark on a six-month campaign, through the

direct agency, Leybourne Brown Maclean, breaking in late April. It

comprises ads in national newspapers and magazines, regional press,

radio, mail and the Internet. The ads will extol the benefits of

shopping direct and attempt to drive home the message that there are

trade bodies to safeguard the consumer.

The ads use the image of an eye where the pupil has been replaced by the

DMA logo, and will carry the headline, ‘Keeping an eye on shopping by

post’ or ‘by phone’.

It is an idea reminiscent of the Advertising Standards Authority’s

campaign, ‘Keeping tabs on ads’. The task of the DMA, though, appears

far more of an uphill struggle.

Gabrielle Wilson, the head of communications at the DMA, disagrees. She

points to recent BMRB figures claiming that in 1995 13 million calls

were made in response to direct ads in newspapers and magazines.

‘We know people feel vulnerable. That is what the campaign is tackling,

by promoting the benefits of direct marketing and ensuring people are

informed about the safeguards that exist,’ she says.

The DMA is relying on the media industry to donate space as there is no

media budget. It claims it already has a great deal of support from the

industry, but is not prepared to say from where.

Some will come from DMA members, such as Reader’s Digest. It will run

ads in its Reader’s Digest magazine and Money Wise, its personal finance


Reader’s Digest is happy to do so, Joanna Reynolds, its director of new

business, says. ‘People are not dubious any more. Consumers increasingly

feel comfortable shopping direct. It’s a sign of maturity and I think

now it is seen as another part of the marketing mix.’

Reynolds could be right. Even in the ad community it is difficult to

find someone prepared to rubbish direct marketing as nothing more than

junk mail.

It is equally hard to find an ad agency that does not either claim to be

integrated or has its own direct arm. Take your pick: GGT, TBWA, Howell

Henry Chaldecott Lury, J. Walter Thompson, Saatchi and Saatchi and now

even the Lowe Group.

Typical is Gerry Moira, the executive creative director of Publicis, who

comments: ‘The tide is in its [direct marketing’s] favour. I think the

trend is to more postal shopping. Consumer confidence is growing because

the direct marketing industry has got its act together.’

Alex Field, the through-the-line director at Leagas Delaney, says the

only problem with some direct marketing is creative. ‘It should be more

intelligent about the work and get better results. The result of cheap

art direction and typography is that it looks cheap.’

Some not only see the area growing, but see benefits for above the line.

Robin Wight, the chairman of WCRS, says: ‘It could create a stronger

need for brand marketing, because if you are not going to have retail

outlets then there is no extra leverage on the consumer other than brand


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