Editorial: DM's Hour in the Sun

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"Direct marketing ... is the ugly stepchild of the ad world to many people. Direct ads are the hard-sell come-ons that consumers love to hate: 800 number TV and print ads, telemarketing sales pitches and direct mail pieces." That's from a story in USA Today last week as it previewed direct's first-ever component to the 49th International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France. But wait, there's more. "Think schlockvertisers promising washboard abs 'as seen on TV.' Or telemarketers interrupting dinner." Gee, thanks, USA Today.

Not sure why this description was included in a story that was favorable to the industry, pointing out that DM ad expenditures grew last year while traditional ad spending dropped. Pointing out that marketers now spend 50 percent of their ad dollars on direct. And pointing out that when times are tough, marketers prefer to speak directly to consumers because they get results. Also, no one is saying for sure whether Cannes Lions folded the direct portion -- originally planned as a separate show -- into the main event last month because of complaints from DMers who didn't want to feel like second-class citizens coming afterward or whether no one signed up because of 9/11 and the economy. At any rate, it was DM's turn to bask in some of that sun along the French Riviera.

Meanwhile, back in the States, DMers took a step or two toward the middle as well last week as DMD New York Marketing Conference honored its Marketer of the Year: Shelly Lazarus, chairwoman/CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. "Some may question why a direct marketing group is honoring someone who runs an ad agency, but DM gave me the wealth of experience to do what I do today," said Lazarus, who spent four years at O&M Direct. "There is no line. It's more like a circle of contact with the customer that builds a brand. Each piece, be it a print ad, or personal letter or a home page ... each has its role intertwined toward the same goal."

Lazarus' comments echoed similar ones made by Grey Direct CEO Lawrence Kimmel at a breakfast meeting earlier this month as he detailed how technological advances in production as well as e-mail and the Internet are revolutionizing the ad world. "The masters of communication are frequently in the direct marketing industry, and they're so unrecognized," he added. Maybe someone at Cannes will notice one of these days.


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