12 November 2010

Direct Marketing will continue to influence advertising

Last night the Chicago Advertising Federation honored Howard Draft with its Silver Medal Award for lifetime achievement, which honors contributions to the local ad community as well as the community at large. The venue was a large dinner at The Drake Hotel and it was fantastic to see a lot of people I’ve worked with over the years.

Howard has obviously achieved a lot, including a series of agencies with his name on the door, which was a running joke throughout the evening’s remarks. It’s not all chest-pounding, though; Howard’s myriad agencies have been very successful. (Full disclosure: If you didn’t know, I work at Draftfcb.)

Direct Marketing in the Past

Most of Howard’s agencies were of the direct marketing variety. Back in the day, “Direct” had always been a little too scientific for most of the big ad agencies. Only David Ogilvy called it his “secret weapon”. The other agencies knew it was powerful, but as Rick Fizdale said last night, “What I knew about Direct could fit in a thimble.”

Fizdale, former Chairman and CEO of Leo Burnett, told the story of how he led an effort to acquire Kobs & Brady, the 1980s powerhouse Direct agency, and in the process met Howard for the first time. The acquisition didn’t happen, and I would never do justice to Fizdale’s version of the story, so I won’t try to retell it here.

One line of the speech is worth pointing out, however. Fizdale referred to “The advertising I practiced and the advertising (Howard) had mastered.” He was comparing traditional brand advertising and Direct Marketing, but what I loved about this line was how casually and naturally he declared both disciplines to be advertising.

Direct Marketing in the Future

Howard, in his acceptance speech, told how he failed to get a job at an ad agency when he was first starting out, and instead landed at a Direct agency. “I firmly believe,” he said, “I wouldn’t be here tonight if I hadn’t gone into direct marketing.”

This is true for a couple of reasons. One is that Direct allowed him to be the entrepreneurial guy he is, outside the stultifying structures of most traditional ad agencies. The other is that he prepared himself for the turn-of-the-century shift toward accountability in marketing. Direct had always been accountable.

This trend will continue, unabated, for as far as any of us dare predict. We’ve posted before about Direct, Digital and Data, and how you can’t have one without the others. The Digital Age is really the continuation of the Direct Age. Data gives us the ability – and the burden – to be accountable. In this way, Direct Marketing will continue to influence advertising.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you there, direct marketing will survive as an effecting advertising medium. Of course through the years there will need to be changes made to everyone's mailing lists. They will need to be updated and companies that find the most well-researched lists will have the best results from their marketing plan.