M&As: It’s what you do with it that counts

Following the recent beginning-of-the-year prognosti­cations that marketing analysts shared, you’d be forgiven for predicting that 2008 might be a slightly quieter year for mar­keting M&A than the blockbuster year that was 2007. But last week’s news that InfoUSA was acquiring the highly respected firm Direct Media not only started the year off with a decent bang; it also yielded a promise from chairman and CEO Vin Gupta that the industry would further fuse. Not many people could convincingly state that a key corporate strategy was to “consolidate the direct marketing industry,” but Gupta defi­nitely has the heft to be one of them.

The spectrum of opinion ranging from “specialized service rules” and “big is better” seems to be more at the full-service end currently, and with such deals, marketers are happy to have a service provider that holds an almost unimaginable wealth of consumer information.

While many companies aim to grow, the ones that will prevail are those that invest in the talent and the resources required to do the clever stuff with that information. Having agency services under one roof and in-house teams all work­ing on integrated campaigns with a streamlined bottom line is the tactic many marketers are advocating as the only way to reach today’s independent, segmented, media-savvy audience. But within these models, the direct media channel is still very much reliant on innovation that comes from small agencies or corporate divisions, technology startups, dedicated creatives — or the consumers themselves.

True integration is not a melting pot, but a synergistic tapes­try of thought and skill where each component is working to enrich the greater whole. The true DM giants will use all of their properties to their best potential, and integrate wisely.

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