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The ads use the image of an eye where the pupil has been replaced by the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