Special Report: Direct Marketing

Direct marketers must be pretty used to being patted on the head by their patronising advertising cousins and reminded how far DM has come over the past 15 years.

Even so, the latest IPA Bellwether Report will have forced competitor disciplines and media to draw breath. Direct marketing budgets rose for the fifth consecutive quarter; it seems the shift away from traditional media continues.

Of course, it's not all rosy, and this report highlights some of the thorny issues DM has to deal with if it is to continue along its upward trajectory.

Reliable figures show a steady fall in the volume of direct mail across a number of DM-loyal sectors, oddly over the Bellwether Report's period of growth.

Postage price hikes have forced more direct marketers to turn to e-mail or contact centres, and when size-based postage pricing comes into effect in April 2006, spend may drop again.

But could DM's public image as a wasteful, intrusive business (page 34), when the Government is finally getting serious about the need to think green, also be blamed? Perhaps the 78,000 tons of direct mail that ends up as landfill every year is starting to weigh on marketers' minds.

In addition, Willott Kingston Smith's figures (right) indicate the UK's biggest direct agencies have been losing ground to their advertising and media cousins in the profitability stakes.

Luckily, there are clients who have such faith in the medium that they throw most (in some cases, all) of their budgets at it (page 36). But is their confidence in DM for its accountability, measureability and much-improved creative output? Or because the glitz of above the line is losing its sheen?

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