Lester Wunderman who identified, defined and named Direct Marketing.

Direct is having a tough time of it at the moment.

In a world of increasing consumer antipathy towards orthodox communications channels (you’ll remember the TGI chart showing the decline in people thinking the ads are as good as the programmes) DM – both mail and its bastard offspring telemarketing – set new standards in irritation and intrusiveness. And you better believe that the in cards are marked by the self-regulation bodies if not the legislators.

And that’s before you get onto the thorny issue of DM’s environmental footprint. Both the consumption of materials and energy to create it in the first place and the residue it leaves in the home – the disposal of which falls to individuals and their council tax.

In all this ethical mess I have recently found some reasons to be cheerful and to recognise the specific qualities that DM contributes to the process of bringing brand ideas to life.

I started out in Direct Marketing – I was Simon Hall’s first graduate trainee. Three years later I escaped the word of guestimating the GSM of paper stock for the heady world of planning and the bright lights of advertising.
I had finally figured out that it was somebody’s job to come up with the strategy, not just implement it below the line, and those people tended to live in ad agencies – this was in the early ‘90s dear reader.
And that was that.
Then recently, being a man of some leisure, I was leafing through the Campaign Direct Awards supplement and I got really rather excited – it was jam packed full of really good creative work.
That’s the thing about direct, it is so, well, direct that you never get to find out about the good stuff unlike the way a great brand film gets youtubed to within an inch of its life. Hell you can’t even link to the campaigns.
And the thing is that where an advertising awards supplement is full of ads a DM awards supplement is full of stuff – things that they have created to bring brand ideas to life rather than ads that tell you things.
So I like the chemical tanker that Ogilvy made to look like a cigarette complete with the poison warnings on the back. I like the brand of concealer that Craik Jones created to raise awareness of domestic abuse. I like the ‘baby somewhere on board’ window sticker that Archibald Ingall Stretton sent to launch the first Skoda MPV. I like the Fuzzy Felt set that Craik Jones gave out on behalf of First Direct. And I like the ‘slobber cloth’ that Joshua mailed Pedigree owners as part of the ‘it’s a dog thing campaign’. All stuff that helps people get the brand idea.
Sure an ad for the Skoda MPV could have photographed the rear window of the vehicle sporting a yellow diamond shaped ‘baby somewhere on board’ sticker, but how much better to actually give the real deal to someone complete with the little plastic sucker.
In a way DM is a half way house between the sterile reach of 2D advertising and the high levels of engagement against irrelevantly small groups of people you get with experiential marketing. And by the way it also makes digital look rather flat too.
OK so the business still obsesses about mock personalisation and hand written signatures, the vast majority is irrelevant, obnoxious and in my home, and the whole endeavour is an environmental disaster area.
But as a way to bring brand ideas to life in three dimensions allied to a distribution system that allow you to get it into a significant number of peoples hands it takes some beating.

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