Magazine article Management Today

Getting to the Point

Magazine article Management Today

Getting to the Point

Article excerpt

Often considered the poor relation, or even black sheep of the marketing world the direct marketing industry is now improving its much maligned image. Liz Levy checks on its delivery to the consumer

It is no coincidence that the first ever campaigns were fought on the battlefield. Advertising, with its targeting, market penetration and |offensive strategies', is an aggressive business. And direct marketing can be the most deadly accurate weapon in the arsenal.

If TV commercials are blitzing bombs, direct mailshots are homing missiles.

For many people direct marketing is synonymous with mailshots. Direct mail is the biggest sector, although it has been hit by rising postal costs with a further hike in rates expected next year. However, it is now losing ground to telephone marketing. British Telecom is the cuckoo in the nest with its Connections in Business division, which handled the water privatisation response campaign. Despite industry gripes about rogue or unprofessional users, this burgeoning sector is worth an estimated 40 million [pounds] and is expected to grow by 40% in 1990.

Direct response broadcasting is also beginning to take off. Cheap late-night commercials sell record sets or car telephones, although ad pundits still claim that British viewers are hostile to response messages on TV.

Yet direct marketing, by letterbox or telephone, is something of a Cinderella among its marketing communications sisters. Almost by definition, it wields a lower professional profile than other marketing sectors - and this despite a user list incorporating most if not all of the Times Top 500.

|Junk' business-to-business faxes are a problem, using up the receiver's paper and fax time. Some companies are now installing screening devices linked up to their mainframe computers; if the receiver is unimpressed by the first page of incoming fax he can divert it to limbo.

Some companies which employ direct marketing techniques are secretive about their tactics. Reader's Digest is one such. Its magazines sells 1.6 million copies monthly, and its book publishing division notches up 1,000s of sales through direct mail, backed up by massive investment in its database.

Perhaps unjustly, direct marketing attracts a degree of opprobrium from its ugly sisters. |Go into direct marketing? I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole,' says the copywriter behind a major TV jeans commercial. |My career matters to me. I'm talented and I go where the recognition and prestige is.'

Public pillorying has not enhanced the direct marketing cause. Timeshare and other horror stories abound in popular culture. Environment secretary Chris Patten has hinted at a waste tax for |junk' mailers. But direct marketing is shedding its rags in preparation for anticipated riches.

Direct marketing is worth an estimated 3.47 billion [pounds] and is the fastest growing sector in the advertising industry. Today several agencies are worth over 30 million [pounds] and many more over 10 million [pounds].

The industry is now finalising plans for a campaign aimed at improving its image. This campaign is likely to claim that direct mail allows people to make their buying choices at home without the intrusion of salesmen. The industry has a case. Where once mailshots often were unwanted |junk', direct marketing has capitalised on new technology to concentrate its efforts. At the same time bigger companies are turning to direct marketing.

Their urge not merely to sell and move on, but to cultivate a healthy brand image has invited a more creative approach to the direct-marketing campaign itself. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.