THIS WEEK: Stop comparing opposite sides of the same coin

‘Good morning, you lot. Here is the news. Food biggie Heinz is slashing its boring, old-fashioned, above-the-line advertising and is dashing into modern, trendy database marketing. Oops, I’m sorry. I’ll read that again. Morning all. Big foodie Heinz is slashing its modern, trendy database marketing and is dashing back into boring, old-fashioned, above-the-line advertising. Oops...’

‘Good morning, you lot. Here is the news. Food biggie Heinz is slashing

its boring, old-fashioned, above-the-line advertising and is dashing

into modern, trendy database marketing. Oops, I’m sorry. I’ll read that

again. Morning all. Big foodie Heinz is slashing its modern, trendy

database marketing and is dashing back into boring, old-fashioned,

above-the-line advertising. Oops...’



A couple of years ago, commentators and gurus climbed out of their baked

bean cans and boldly foretold the end of advertising as we knew it. FMCG

marketers, they predicted, were about to abandon TV in droves.

Immediately, TV advertising boomed. Now that Heinz has announced it is

moving back above the line, the know-alls have remained strangely

silent. Their predictions, it transpires, were as meaningful as a bowl

of alphabetti spaghetti.



Now, if you suspect that I am going to make whoopee because above-the-

line advertising has triumphed over database marketing, you are utterly

mistaken. I have, it is true, occasionally pointed out that database

marketing is neither particularly modern nor particularly trendy. (It

was far, far, more important at the end of the 19th century than it will

be at the end of the 20th). But nonetheless, I am a dedicated supporter

of direct marketing, in which I have been continuously involved since I

was a teeny-bopper in kneepants.



But as Heinz seems belatedly to have discovered, media advertising and

database marketing - or ‘direct mail’ as it used to be called - are

qualitatively different forms of communication. They are hardly

comparable and rarely truly competitive. From the consumer’s point of

view, getting a letter is as different from seeing a TV ad as door-to-

door selling is different from supermarketing. All are means of moving

merchandise, but there the comparison ends.



Database marketing, in other words, is not a substitute for TV

advertising (nor is the converse true). Naturally, marketing budgets are

finite and choices must be made, but the choices must depend upon

objectives, not upon transient, trendy fashions.



How well, for example, does direct marketing build a brand personality?

Not brilliantly. Who is the great maestro of direct marketing? Reader’s

Digest. What brand personality does Reader’s Digest’s direct marketing

portray? Could you repeat the question?



Is, on the other hand, direct mail a cost-efficient means of generating

sales leads and building a databank? Yes, it frequently is. More cost

efficient than direct-response TV? Yes, quite often.



Consider your own reaction to learning news about a friend via (a) a

letter, (b) a newspaper, or (c) the TV. Letters are a private medium,

press and TV very public. They overlap and must be integrated, but they

are not interchangeable. Nobody ever got famous as a result of a letter

campaign but lots of people got rich.



Winston Fletcher is chairman of Delaney Fletcher Bozell



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