A direct view from down under, pt. 1 of 2

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Darren Martin
Darren Martin

I recently had the privilege of being invited to judge both the Caples Awards in New York and, more recently, recently the Australasian AWARD Awards in Sydney.

I've also been privileged to write this blog entry, and in the hope of getting invited back to New York in November thought it best to come through with the goods.

So, here goes. A collection of thoughts, opinions and observations from yours truly, Darren Martin, about “The other DM.”

Firstly I have to ask, “What is Direct Marketing?”

It's the same question that pops up year after year, and every year you'll hear a different answer. If you asked “The Godfather of Direct, Stan Rapp,” or the newly appointed direct team in your creative department, I'm fairly positive the answers you hear will be akin to chalk and cheese. Not saying that Stan is old hat or anything (in fact, I think he's just as relevant today as he was when he first predicted the change from mass marketing to a new one-to-one model a generation ago), but the newbies probably won't be wrong in their definition either.

Ask Joe blow and his wife, though, and they'd say it's the junk mail you get in your letterbox each week.

If you ask me, I'd tell you to ask someone else.

My network colleague, Tess Doughty, managing director of Rapp Melbourne, puts it: “DM is everything. DM's not a channel, it's the principles with which you approach a marketing challenge.”

I've been debating for years now that mainstream is now direct. Gone are the days of placing a logo down on a pretty picture (static or moving) and waiting for the money to roll in after consumers decide they want what you've got. Clients these days are demanding a return on interest, and everything is accountable. And why shouldn't it be, money doesn't grow on trees. And as I'm my own client these days (Insert shameless plug now: Bring your memories home by buying a NYC print here: www.newyorkcitypics.net) I want to know what my dollar will do for me and what is the best way, execution- and channel-wise, to make my advertising pay off.

“Mainstream” has had its day in the sun. Who wants to be mainstream anyway? This day and age I want to be seen as alternative, edgy and relevant, even if it is harder considering I'm not the young cocky creative anymore. However, that's where I think DM can be. It's not the dodgy, ugly cousin anymore; it's the hot sexy new girl or boy in town and it's waiting to show you a good time. If you treat it with respect, that is. Jokes aside, mainstream or “traditional advertising” does have its place but DM, as a form of thinking, is here to stay and will continue to evolve, especially as technology does. An observation I've made when judging locally and internationally is that “Mainstream” agencies continue to place highly in “Direct” categories. Gone are the days where direct agencies alone entered and won DM awards. I guess this proves my theory that mainstream is now direct. Maybe, maybe not.

Ok, what is my theory I hear you ask? Here goes, right or wrong.

DM is eliciting someone to respond, changing someone's behaviour or encouraging your audience to interact with your brand. But most importantly, it's getting someone to act on impulse, whatever that may be. That said, the outcome would be: doing, acting, thinking or just plain old buying. DM isn't just a pack, an email or an ad with a coupon, phone number or even website on it for that matter. DM is the thinking behind the marketing strategy and the channel used to relay the relevant information to the target audience from whom you're trying to elicit a response. Oh, and did I mention measurable?

Like everything, evolution takes place and things change. But deep down the principles are always going to be the same.

Next week we'll discuss “What makes Australian direct marketing so special when it comes to award shows?” And to top it off, a few observations from the recent AWARD Awards.

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