DM Focus

By The Drum, Administrator

August 31, 2006 | 6 min read

The direct marketing landscape has never been quite so colourful. While growth has always been a constant, its evolution to embrace new disciplines is changing the shape of the industry.

This year’s DMA Census paints a picture of a strong, growing industry; the total worth of the DM industry now stands at a massive £17billion. Increasing 13 per cent on last year, the figure marks another year of growth for the industry since the census began 11 years ago. Yet while growth has been consistent, the media embraced by the direct marketing industry is constantly developing. New media’s share of the DM pie, incorporating email and mobile marketing, is still relatively small compared to the likes of telemarketing or direct mail, yet its growth is impressive; an increase of 80 per cent to £1.5billion over the past year. This massive growth is testament to DM’s constantly evolving remit, exploiting new technology to deliver consumer and business needs.

“Interactive media has enabled clients and suppliers to increase their business reach, taking the pressure off the more traditional media channels in a cost effective way,” explains Tony Kane, chairman of DMA North and managing director at Manchester-based Touchpoint Communications. “Taking a more media-neutral route, direct marketers have the skills to deliver the same number of customers yet using new media are able to take out the less performing areas of press and DM to really drive return on investment.”

According to Kane, the North is well ahead of the game and building a centre of excellence for interactive media without sacrificing the media neutral and integrated route: “The North seems to have honed in on the digital skillset and invested heavily. Agencies such as WAVV Rapp Collins, Mediavest and Media Market have all developed digital arms to ensure delivery against key business metrics. Set alongside the North’s successful telemarketing centres and data houses, more and more clients are buying into our expertise as well as our work ethic and service levels.”

Yet, interestingly, the DMA’s Budgets report for 2006 shows that new media’s drive forward within the direct marketing fold isn’t necessarily reflected within direct marketing departments. It reveals that digital media is not considered to be part of the direct marketing department by the majority of companies, with the consequence that 65 per cent of senior direct marketing professionals are unable to put media neutral planning into practice.

Helen Simpson, CEO at WWAV Rapp Collins Leeds, believes that agencies have a strong role to play in driving this change: “The accelerated growth in digital is a very exciting development for all of us in DM. The challenge lies in how this is successfully integrated across other core mediums to allow effective and efficient channel planning. Currently this is still not the case across many businesses, largely driven by how the entry into digital was isolated from marketing in the early days. The agency\'s role now has to be to drive conversations with our clients about joined-up channel planning and consistency of communication.”

So, can the future of direct marketing be completely integrated and media neutral? Saman Mansourpour, account director at Bristol-based Rapier West, believes it has to be. He says: “Media neutral planning is already a specialism and moving forward there will be no other way of planning. This is because we no longer measure the effectiveness of each channel but concentrate on the combined results. After all, combined media campaigns often outperform single media channels. The sum is greater than the parts, as they say, and this applies to digital as much as TV and mail.”

To achieve this, Ian Hughes, managing director of Consumer Intelligence and chairman of DMA West, wants the direct marketing industry to stop hindering potential growth and success by over defining the individual channels. “This is one issue that the industry needs to take and shake,” he comments. “We need to stop thinking of ourselves in a pigeon hole. As the DMA, we are working hard to get there but there is a broad church to be covered and it will take time.”

Nevertheless, the direct marketing industry is experiencing a blurring of the traditional classification, which can only help in driving a media neutral approach. “The DM industry is both growing dramatically and disappearing. It used to be that there was an ‘above the line’ and a ‘below the line,’” explains Hughes, “but these days, people are more likely to ask ‘what was the line anyway?’”

Many think that as a result of this integration, a far broader mix of clients and agencies are getting involved in direct. “In this environment and as the consumer becomes more discerning, direct marketing is forced to become more creative, innovative and impactful,” says Mike Ashton, managing director, JDA. “The best DM nowadays can generate significant brand awareness in its own right. From a DM agency standpoint, the job becomes a lot more challenging and exciting; we have to be completely open to all potential opportunities.”

Ashton believes that lines will become so blurred that the very term ‘direct’ may even become redundant. “In the future, people will be talking less and less about direct. This won’t be because it has become any less important but because it has become fully integrated, respected and a vital component in mainstream marketing.”

For Hughes, herein lies the danger: “The industry has an amazing future, except it won’t be an industry. It will be a way of life. The biggest threat to DM is that people forget that it’s DM and they just think of it as SMS or web marketing, forgetting the rules of targeting, strong copy, good response handling and customer relationships.”

But what of other DM disciplines. Have they had their day? Not according to the DMA Census. In fact, the market remains largely dominated by the three main media of direct mail, telemarketing and TV, which make up nearly half of the total expenditure. Outside of the new media mix, the Census also underlines the continued growth of customer magazines (increasing 15 per cent in 2004 to £395million), highlighting their popularity with consumers as shown in the DMA Participation Media report where they were judged the most positively treated.

Although maintaining one of the majority shares, direct mail faired less well. Following a sustained period of growth and record volumes in 2003, direct mail volumes have fallen slightly over the past two years. Both business and consumer mailings declined by five per cent. This has been attributed to a significant decrease in credit related mailings by financial services organisations and also to companies’ increased use of suppression files which has resulted in better targeting and less wastage.

Despite all the talk about Telephone Preference Service (TPS) registrations,

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