A total of £2.5 billion was spent on direct mail last year, and so-called junk mail generated around £28bn worth of business from consumers. Couple these figures with a recent survey finding that over two thirds of the general public believe that direct mail is a legitimate way for companies to contact them, and you have evidence that the direct marketing 'product' is performing well.
But what about the direct marketing 'brand'? The DMA clearly thinks it has an image problem that a PR campaign can address, and there does appear to be enough substance to communicate. Simple things such as what direct marketing actually is, what benefits it can bring the consumer, what the consumer can do to control it, recycling and so on - all these are sound propositions that could usefully be communicated.
So yes, I think the direct marketing brand image can be improved, and a PR campaign is probably as good a way as any. But all image campaigns work harder when they go hand-in-hand with a product improvement, and there seems to be plenty of scope here too.
The biggest problem with direct marketing is old data, and consumers are either not targeted or mis-targeted. So direct marketing isn't direct at all, it's indiscriminate marketing. If this product problem could be solved, the brand image campaign would be really effective.
NO - GRAHAM HALES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTERBRAND
As a brand consultant I like to challenge whether a leopard can change its spots. I'd like to believe that any brand can change.
So why is direct marketing's image a step too far for my blissful naivety? Well, for a brand to change... it has to change.
Sounds obvious I agree, but without fund-amental and tangible evidence of change, perceptions won't differ, whatever the budgets and the posturing.
Perhaps I'm just too cynical, but I'm not convinced the direct marketing industry wants to change itself. Every other marketing service with a self-imposed code of conduct works long into the night to gauge just how close they can sail to the wind of their self-imposed regulations. So why would direct marketers be more saintly?
Clearly, there's good and poor direct marketing. But whenever people talk to me about it, however well it's targeted, there's a conversion rate. And by definition a conversion rate means there's wastage, and this means you'll be in someone's face when they don't feel they invited you to be there.
And that's why people don't like direct marketing. It's sad for the business, but while people can ignore a poorly placed TV advertisement, direct marketing just seems to hijack attention. While that may be the root of its undoubted effectiveness as a medium, in a time-poor, wastage-sensitive society, it can clog up your life like a bowl of muesli with extra roughage.
MAYBE - NEIL HEDGES, CHAIRMAN, FISHBURN HEDGES
Having worked on several PR makeovers, I think the DM industry's reputation is pretty bad. Unsolicited mail and sales calls are very intrusive.
However, I don't believe DM is in the last chance saloon. Its image is retrievable, but we're talking years, not months.
Action points should include a commit-ment that DMA members will ensure only people who have opted in to all commun-ication receive them. It needs to be that radical.
The campaign's thrust should be in media relations, and that will be the challenge. The views of journalists will be coloured by personal experience - particularly those who've received silent calls.
Expect a lack of receptiveness and questions about the reason for the campaign - is the DMA doing this because it wants to flood people with more stuff?
The proposition to journalists should be that the majority of DMA member companies abide by the DMA Code, but that things are soured by the activities of a small number of rogue players. And we are doing everything we can to weed these out.
It's only then, if you get a good reception, that you have a licence to go further to tell about the good stuff and how it should be given credit. To do that at the outset is the wrong way around.