We’ve covered in some detail on these pages the battle that is
raging between traditional ad agencies and Web specialists for control
of the new-media market. But another, perhaps more significant, fight is
looming between ad agencies and direct marketing companies.
There is a dichotomy between these two groups that is less easily
reconciled than that between the first two. Ultimately, whether via
acquisition, equity swaps or straightforward, old-fashioned partnership,
agencies and Web specialists will end up working together - as many
already do - harmonising their different skills to benefit the client.
There will always be a role for the Web specialists, just as there is
for production companies in TV advertising.
The possibility of advertising and direct marketing agencies working
together on a client’s new-media activities is less viable. It is an
either-or situation - and it’s one that direct marketers feel supremely
well equipped to win.
Why? George Wiedemann, chairman and chief executive of Grey Direct
Worldwide, says: ’Relationship marketing is the ultimate use of this
medium.’ So move over, admen, with your penchant for 30-second
brand-building ads, the Net is no place for you. The skills required to
make the most of the Web, with its one-to-one customer interaction and
database management, are those of the direct marketing specialist.
For all these supposed natural advantages, however, I have seen little
evidence to date of direct marketing agencies delivering interactive
new-media solutions for clients. Is this because they haven’t done any?
Or is it because they’re not as good as ad agencies at shouting about
the work that they do?
In my opinion, the latter is more damning than the former. It’s probably
closer to the truth. Ad agencies are better at making their work - and
therefore their clients’ brands - famous. And, whatever the medium,
whatever the short-term marketing objectives, this is still key to the
long-term survival of the brand. You might not need those 30-second TV
ads forever, but don’t discount brand-building. The ability of ad
agencies to deliver in this regard is their trump card.