‘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