Creativity abounds in today's DM work

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One of the best things about my job is the sensation of being hit by a hundred brilliant ideas every day. Sadly, I cannot claim these ideas are all my own; rather, through the information I receive via meetings, phone calls, e-mails and mail, I'm exposed to some of the great, current thinking in the industry without even having to try.

Admittedly, to say that every communication I receive qualifies as someone's great idea would be an exaggeration. But in a marketing universe in which traditional advertising has long had dibs on the word "creativity," I am begging to differ; it's my belief that proper creativity comes in three parts: the idea; what you do with it; and what you do with the responses to it. Some parts are more visible than others, but to write about one part is to undersell the story.

I'm particularly driven to praise our industry's creativity this week. I've had a cluster of meetings with some of the leading direct marketing agencies over the past few days and come out of each one of them feeling energized and excited. I've heard about one-off, pro bono campaigns for nonprofits, which are of course a great creative outlet for the direct marketers who are occasionally more constrained by their highly corporate-minded clients. But I've also heard about some startlingly edgy work done on behalf of the same corporate clients from whom the pro bono work was meant to be a palate-cleanser.

Across all verticals, there are some truly brave marketers. Indeed, one of the things I heard at each meeting was an anecdote about a client confessing to the person who had brought the idea to him or her, that he or she didn't' "get it," and the person exclaiming, "perfect, you're not the target!" These marketers have enough faith in the customer analysis and segmentation that is going on in the name of their brand that the good ones are happy to cede full control just enough to make sure that the work really has an opportunity to stretch its legs.

The more I hear about the work that's out there, winging its way via multiple media throughout America, the more I anxiously eye my mail and e-mail folders every day as I hope that the promise to send me lots of work is fulfilled.

And when it is, it can bring great surprises. Sometimes it's a direct mail piece, sometimes it's a DRTV ad screen.

And sometimes it's a screen grab of a tower ad that is on the screen as a result of smart behavioral targeting; or an image of a search screen that has been exquisitely optimized by a stroke of marketing genius; or a photo of someone standing in front of a billboard holding a cell phone with an SMS message displayed on it that is clearly "talking" to the billboard.

It's a lovely problem to have when we have to scratch our heads a bit to figure out how best to illustrate a story that describes some of the great work that's out there. Consider this an open invitation to give us all the problems you care to in that arena.

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