Magazine article Marketing

Direct Mail Faces Creative Overhaul

Magazine article Marketing

Direct Mail Faces Creative Overhaul

Article excerpt

The lack of D&AD recognition has spurred the DM industry into action, writes Gail Kemp

Nobody disputes that creative standards in direct marketing have risen to unprecedented heights, so it seems strange the UK's most prestigious creative awards scheme, D&AD, did not award a single yellow pencil in its DM category this year.

But the controversial decision by the jury, led by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R's executive creative director, Robert Campbell, has led to a complete rethink of D&AD's DM category, which is being renamed Direct Mail.

Campbell's jury was faced with a bewildering array of work because any ad with a response mechanism -- such as a web site address or a phone number, now calls itself DM. And within the core discipline of direct mail, it seemed impossible to compare a straightforward mass mailing, such as Vodafone's voicemail reminder with something as elaborate, and expensive, as the Physicians for Human Rights' landmines campaign which sent a single shoe to important political figures.

Some of the best direct mail pieces were self-promotional agency mailings to which the jury was reluctant to give an award. The result was the disappointing 'no pencil' decision which led D&AD to forma DM Special Advisory Group chaired by Campbell.

The group concluded that the DM category should become 'direct mail' because the term 'direct marketing' describes a discipline, while 'direct mail' is a medium, like TV, press or posters.

Advent of direct response

From next year, direct response radio ads will be entered in the radio category, DRTV will go into television and so on, making the task for the jury much clearer. In addition, there will be various sub-categories such as high volume mailings, low volume mailings, self-promotional mailings and charity/public service mailings.

This change is welcomed by the sponsor Royal Mail because, says its media centre director Tim Rivett: "It enables us to celebrate excellence in the use of the medium rather than the application."

Equally pleased is Leonardo creative director Gary Sharpen, who will head next year's jury. He says: "It recognises that direct mail deserves to be judged in its own right. Over the past few years, people have really begun to push the boundaries and prove that it isn't just A4 envelopes and junk mail. But everyone's experience of direct mail is limited to what comes through their own letterbox and we need to demonstrate the range and creativity of what is out there."

In addition to the awards reforms, D&AD has pledged to run educational and business initiatives aimed at the client community, conveying the importance of direct mail creativity and showing how it can be incorporated into integrated marketing.

The move toward integration is a major factor in increased creativity; as clients align their above- and below-the-line marketing activity, they expect creative parity. At the same time, today's more sophisticated consumer demands more than what Paul Kitcatt, chief executive of Kitcatt & Co, calls "the formulaic, American school of DM".

He adds: "Creativity is vital. If you take it out, all you have left is a formula. Those ten little tricks guaranteed to get a response don't work any more and can even be counter-productive. Good DM creative people are like public speakers, motivating consumers to change their behaviour.

"And there are more good creative people in DM because we are hiring people who, ten years ago, would have gone into advertising. But now, instead of focusing on one medium, they can use their skills on a bigger canvas and turn their hands to anything."

As rising costs and growing fragmentation have diminished TV's appeal, more clients are putting bigger budgets into below-the-line activity. The accountability of DM is attractive, while increased availability of consumer data allows agencies to target customers more accurately and stretch creativity without fear of alienating recipients. …

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