I know it’s a bold claim to say that DM “saved the whale”, but let me explain….. Unlike above-the-line advertising, DM is scalable. In conventional marketing, either you have a spare £5m to spend on a mass media campaign or you don’t. There is no in between. DM is accessible to all. Budgets of any size can afford to buy a direct marketing campaign.
This is important because it means even challenger brands can afford to communicate one-to-one with their customers, or, in the case of charities, with their supporters. There is little chance that Greenpeace would have been able to afford a mass media campaign to raise public awareness of their cause. It was their use of direct marketing combined with PR that galvanised public support, raised funds and directed a social movement to take action in protecting whales from imminent extinction.
Similarly, consider the likes of internet retailing giants such as Amazon and Ocado. Millions of UK consumers buy their groceries, CDs, books and suchlike online, saving them the chore of having to set foot in shops. Britons lead the world in the amount they spend online. We mostly attribute this trend to technology, but the business model of the Amazons and Ocados of the world is directly descended from the catalogue and mail order companies of the nineteenth century – the wellspring of the direct marketing industry.
These are just two examples of how DM has contributed so much to society over the years, but for which it has received little credit. It’s an argument for making our case a little more volubly. Currently, the DMA Awards are one of the few beacons for the industry, broadcasting to all how direct marketers are contributing to the country’s wealth.
Yet, it’s not just the need to shout about our achievements that makes the DMA Awards so necessary. Looking back over the 30 or so years that the Awards have been running produces a fascinating timeline of the development of direct marketing in Britain. We have seen seismic changes in this time, not least in the digital field. Along the way, we’ve also become a hell of a lot better at many things (and worse at some others). I think the DMAs in particular have driven many of the improvements, by raising the bar for everyone in the industry.
Of course I jumped at the chance of serving as the chair of the 2010 DMA Awards panel of judges. And it’s not just because of the affection I hold for them as an erstwhile winner of the Grand Prix. No, it goes deeper; we really do have much to be proud of.