The game changers

At the same time that marketing spend has begun to tilt away from traditional advertising and toward direct, the very definition of a direct marketing agency has also transformed – although a new standard definition has yet to be universally established. For an agency to succeed, it’s clear that it must take a leadership role in moving towards the future of DM, however it is defined. Here, DMNews looks at five agency leaders that are driving change in their own companies to meet the challenges of this new era.

What is a true agency visionary?

[One who understands the] ability to get how today’s customers engage with the brand and with the passions in their own lives. We call it active branding — how to create connections and experiences for customers that are both motivating and relevant.

How do you define direct?

We think about how to create per­sonalized and relevant connections between two people. That can occur on a mobile device, in print or in the digital space. An idea doesn’t just live in one channel anymore.

What drives change in your agency?

We now need to understand the impact that the digital world has on overall marketing. We now spend our time thinking through how to meet a client’s brand and business goals, and then look at our channel [mix].

What are the biggest challenges Digitas faces today?

One is making sure we can find enough talent. We are fortunate that given our leadership position in the digital space, we have been success­ful at attracting really great industry talent. But if you were to ask what keeps me up at night, it is definitely finding the right talent.

What is in the agency’s future?

We realize that we will increasingly take the leadership role as a market­ing partner — not [just] a channel part­ner. That means great depth of skills and understanding how to bring this together in a cross-channel, integrated way for our clients.

Ellen Keohane


What is the biggest challenge AMS faces today?

Educating procurement departments on what value a strong DM agency brings to the table, when they con­tinually try to commoditize what we do. It’s not just putting ink on paper, it’s making the thinking, process and execution flawless.

What drives change at AMS?

[We’re] trying to figure out how to best speak to the consumer, whether it’s through the mail, by e-mail, or text messaging. If an agency can offer an integrated approach, it’s going to be the clear winner going forward. I see a lot of agencies today that are focus­ing on just one channel. I think that’s going to be a critical error.

What leap has your agency made to move toward DM’s future?

We decided to jumpstart [our Hispanic capability] and we acquired Expe­riencia, in Chicago, [which] we’ve renamed Aspen Latino. We see it as a great growth sector for us, and it’s growing in the marketplace. We also saw great [acquisition] opportunities in sales promotion and data analytics.

What are the marketing areas that you think will endure?

We are investing a ton of money and resources into digital and mobile mar­keting. We view the third screen as a very important tool for the future. We’ve invested heavily in people and technology to offer our clients best-in-class capability in that area.

Nathan Golia


What is a true agency visionary?

I think it is defined by finding the balance between what’s possible and what’s practical. In any agency, there’s always that challenge of extending the value proposition into the market­place with the constraints of running the business day to day.

What leap have your agency made to move toward DM’s future?

It’s been a leap of integrating a broader set of competencies. First, we built a strong marketing services capabil­ity. Then we started building the con­sulting capability to help customers operationalize that insight. Third, we added in DM agency capabilities to create programs that actually change consumer behavior.

What is the biggest challenge Merkle faces today?

I think the challenge for a database marketing agency — or anyone in the marketing space for that matter — is dealing with the revolution in information creation. I don’t think it’s any longer about brand strategy or customer strategy or marketing strategy; it’s about the integration of all those.

What are the marketing areas that you think will endure?

I think the challenge today continues to be around an ability to operation­alize insight and understanding of consumers, I think technology and analytics are the key enablers of this information revolution, so it is those two competencies.

Lauren Bell

What drives change in your agency?

Developing our competency in inquiry – which keeps us in a mode of asking questions. We don’t get con­tent in a way of thinking or working. Just because it works today doesn’t mean it’s going to work tomorrow.

What is the biggest challenge Unit 7 faces today?

To help organizations identify the need to change and to explore that change without compromising the base of their business, since it’s under­standably a major transition.

What is your definition of DM?

Today’s direct marketing engages consumers in trusted conversations. Trusted conversations lead to new data, new insights, desired behavior, loyalty, and brand relationship.

What does the agency of the future look like?

It is skilled in the competency of inquiry and understanding commu­nity-based marketing. It knows how to go from push communications to facilitating conversations. To me, that is the entire horizon of how we lever­age the interactions that consumers are now having on a daily basis.

Sharon Goldman


What is a true agency visionary?

David Ogilvy was perhaps the indus­try’s best example [of a visionary]. He had an extraordinary ability to identify new strategies and trends in advance of anyone else. His teachings are embed­ded in our corporate culture.

What drives change in your agency?

The people and their relentless desire for innovation and results. We con­sider our agency to be in a state of “perpetual beta” where we constantly develop new solutions, test them, and adapt them to consumer response and interaction. We have become more nimble and lean in our structure to enable us to focus on big ideas.

What is the biggest challenge Ogilvy faces today?

Being able to deliver speed, efficiency as well as global scale to clients.

What is in the agency’s future?

The OgilvyOne of the future will be enabled with end-to-end mar­keting technology that allows fully data-driven, totally immediate, and entirely interactive marketing to be practiced. While that has long been an ambition, bringing together the consumer, rich data, personal brand experiences, and connected relation­ships is finally possible. –Chantal Todé

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