Media: Double Standards - Making a bob at the dirty end of the business

Direct marketing supremos tell how a great mailshot feels like a party invitation and how where there's muck, there's 25 per cent of all marketing spend.

HELEN DAVIES, HEAD OF DIRECT COMMUNICATIONS, CARAT

- How well-equipped are you to cope with the increasing popularity of digital as a direct marketing channel?

If we claimed to know everything, then we wouldn't be pushing the boundaries of the technology, but Carat has a great digital team, so I'm relaxed about it. We have 30 specialists across all forms of digital media, working closely with our direct and data planning teams.

- Is it an advantage to have direct marketing and digital capabilities together?

You can't give the best advice about communications without having a high standard of work across all disciplines, including direct and digital. It's a fine balance between offering joined-up thinking and developing centres of excellence.

- How well-equipped are media agencies to offer direct data planning?

The usage of data within the communications planning process adds significant value to a client's marketing activity. We've invested heavily in this area to allow us to fully exploit these opportunities.

- Is direct marketing still capable of growth? Where will this growth come from?

Of course it's capable of further growth: nothing is more powerful than a conversation held directly with your customer. The discipline will have to evolve, though, if it's to deliver scaleable cost efficiencies. Digital technology will drive direct-to-consumer marketing in the future and direct advertisers will have to recognise the power of the brand.

- Should the trend of low-value, big-volume mailings be stopped because it gives direct marketing a bad name, or is it a cost-effective way of reaching consumers?

Direct marketing takes a 25 per cent share of all adspend, so it's too big to dismiss that easily. Mass mailings needn't be poor-quality - good creative that extends across the full portfolio of communications can only benefit a client. It is beholden upon all of us to spend as much time developing good direct mail as we spend on above-the-line media.

- What do you think of the creative standard in direct mail?

I received a great mailing from Sky Bet the other day. For those few moments, Sky had my complete and utter attention - more so than a TV ad and for longer, too. Like everything, there's good creative and bad.

- What is the answer to falling response rates?

Consumer understanding, innovation and intrigue.

- How do you respond to people who think that direct marketing is the dirty end of the advertising business?

It's not about whether something is sexy or not, it's about what's right for an advertiser. If you can't talk knowledgeably about all aspects of marketing, you can't give the best advice. If they don't take it seriously they'll be left behind.

- What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you at work?

To save my parents' blushes, I'll take the Fifth Amendment on that one.

- Where will you be in five years' time?

Still at the "dirty end" of the business, earning a bob or two!

- What was the last piece of DM you received and what did you do on the back of it?

It was addressed to the Lady of the Manor and promoted a luxury French hair salon due to open in my village. It appealed to my inner snob and I'm thinking about it ...

GREG GRIMMER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, ZED

- How well-equipped are you to cope with the increasing popularity of digital as a direct marketing channel?

We employ 83 people who work in digital media across display, search, affiliate marketing, mobile and integrated digital television. Having recently won the biggest online account in the UK (BT), we feel particularly well-placed and confident of our capabilities in this area.

- Is it an advantage to have direct marketing and digital capabilities together?

Only if you have people who understand the power of both channels. We plan and execute in 15 different media channels. Our planners recommend the most relevant channel(s) for each client through results-driven media channels, online and offline. The obvious advantage is the ability to move monies to the best-performing channels without the age-old agency fear of losing revenue.

- How well-equipped are media agencies to offer direct data planning?

Those that don't are missing out on an important revenue stream and an even more important learning tool.

- Is direct marketing still capable of growth? Where will this growth come from?

In the new world in which we work, all forms of broadcast media will have to become better at one-to-one marketing. I've had some of my most interesting meetings this year with outdoor media contractors. Check out www.screenfx.com for the perfect example of how

posters have turned into digital advertising and then into direct consumer communication.

- Should the trend of low-value, big-volume mailings be stopped because it gives direct marketing a bad name, or is it a cost-effective way of reaching consumers?

MBNA is one of our most important customers and has built a fantastically successful business on large-volume mailings. However, it absolutely realises that that is only one channel available to them, and pushes us aggressively to look at new innovations.

- What do you think of the creative standard in direct mail?

This is like asking about the creative standard in advertising, for every Crazy Frog there's a Honda "cog". Great direct marketing feels like an invitation to the best party. A bad mailshot ends up in the recycle bin whatever the channel used to deliver it. Anyone with any qualms should get on the BMW mailing list.

- What is the answer to falling response rates?

Google.

- How do you respond to people who think that direct marketing is the dirty end of the advertising business?

By combining our resource in the most dynamic areas of marketing (eg search engine marketing) with more traditional direct marketing channels, we have turned upside down the perception of Zed within our own group.It seems we are no longer perceived as unfashionable. However, I'm reminded of the phrase "where there is muck ...".

- What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you at work?

I'm extremely difficult to embarrass, but I'm told that is different from being embarrassing.

- Where will you be in five years' time?

No doubt in an embarrassing situation.

- What was the last piece of DM you received and what did you do on the back of it?

Campaign subscription form, wrote a cheque.

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