Many channels play in DM's tent

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Over the past couple of years, there has been a lot of talk about the coming collapse of the traditional advertising model, as the online space gains more and more marketing dollars.

While the decline of the 30-second TV commercial has been well documented, there has been less said about how the changing marketplace will impact direct marketing. The good news is this: Unlike the shrinking general advertising market, it appears the DM model is expanding.

We're all aware of the move, personified by the merger of Draft and FCB, to make gen­eral advertising more accountable by making it more response-driven. Yet, there are also other changes taking place in the industry that show that direct marketing is growing beyond the usual channels.

One relationship marketing agency has gone so far as to bucket its direct offering two ways, pitching both old-school “response” marketing and new order “self-service” marketing. As you might surmise from the descriptor, self-service marketing is all about putting content where people will find it, whether that's on a blog, a podcast or a social networking site.

Self-service marketing is not really direct marketing in the classic sense. For starters, it's difficult and sometimes impossible to measure. But, get used to it. The direct mar­keting game may be the same, but the rules of customer engagement are changing. And to truly get potential customers to take action, as well as interact with brands, we all need to look at expanding our efforts beyond the tried and true DM vehicles that are designed to get an immediate response.

Customers are increasingly going to the Web to not just make purchases, but for information and advice on what and where to buy. So it only makes sense to go to where the customers are. This means adding non-traditional channels to the marketing mix, whether it's a targeted ad on Facebook, a word-of-mouth initiative or a dialogue-driven corporate blog.

There will always be a place for the stan­dard No. 10 package and 60-second DRTV spot. But now more than ever, direct market­ing is becoming “the big tent”, a place where the number of ways to interact and engage with customers is as vast and varied as the Internet — and our imaginations.

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