TOP 80 DIRECT MARKETING AGENCIES 1999: DM LEAGUE TABLES - The client perspective/The sudden growth and rapid development of the direct marketing business has left many clients sharing some of the same anxieties as agencies, a straw poll suggests

Jenny Moseley

Jenny Moseley

Director for circulation and marketing,

National Geographic Society

’It may be different for other clients, but we have a very strong

in-house marketing team, with a lot of direct marketing experience. So

we don’t retain an agency. We decide what we want to achieve in a year,

and then look for an agency equipped to do that task, under two hats -

creativity, and all the front end and back end stuff, the strategic

thinking and the execution.

’It’s our job to watch the agency world very closely, to know who’s in

and who’s out. If I see a talented person, their agency may be one I can

do business with, and it doesn’t matter whether they are No. 1 or


’The shortage of skill sets is a problem for everyone, on both the

client and agency sides. The thing that worries me about this is the

lack of continuity. One team presents to you, and by the time the agency

starts the job, you’re working with a different team. The first lot have

either been poached or promoted. That’s one reason why we won’t have a

long-term relationship, and review our suppliers regularly.’

Simon Carter

Head of marketing (residential), London Electricity

’Shortage of skills in DM agencies has not been a problem for me, but

the polarisation of the industry could be, if it reduces the number of

specialist shops. I don’t believe in integrated, through-the-line


’New media is an issue because everyone claims to be an expert, but few

are. All of the agencies want to add it to their portfolio. We’re

actually going out to pitch for new media services at the moment.

’There is more direct marketing than ever, and consumers are better

informed, which means that work really has to stand out to get their


When I left financial services in 1995, I had the feeling that it was

all more and more of the same, trying to reinvent the wheel. In

contrast, the utilities sector is very exciting, and some very good work

is being done. Utilities have been around for 100 years, but it is only

now that they are having to learn how to communicate with their


David Tyers

Direct marketing manager, Automobile Association

’I agree with the view that the industry is polarising. It is separating

out even more into two groups, one with a much wider range of services

and probably better able to handle new media, and the other being ideas

shops, very strong creatively. I have personal experience of the way two

of the bigger agencies, Brann and Wunderman Cato Johnson, have been

developing their breadth of services, almost like management

consultancy. It is going to be harder for start-ups to bridge the


’I am going to a conference soon where most speakers are management

consultants, rather than from DM agencies. Agencies need to look at the

extent to which they can offer such depth of thinking.’


Consumers with loyalty cards (and just under two-thirds of the

population are active card users, according to a recent survey by

Carlson) receive considerably more direct mail than those without.

They are likely to get three to four times as many mailshots from

government departments and utility companies, IT and communications,

automotive, entertainment and financial services as non-card holders. In

the case of toiletries and cosmetics (not a particularly active sector

for direct marketing), it could be six times as many.

’The advent of loyalty and store cards has had an incredible effect on

direct marketing,’ says Sarah Jane Thomson, sales and marketing director

of Thomson Intermedia, the company which provided the data.

’The statistics until now have been unknown to many in the industry, and

will have significant ramifications across the whole of direct


Several factors may help explain the higher mail volumes. Apart from the

mailshots generated by the card issuers themselves, it’s a fact that

card holders are more likely to feature on many mailing lists because

they tend to be young and affluent rather than old and poor.

Where card issuers make membership details available, they are able to

provide valuable profiling information, increasing the chances of

accurate targeting. Also, Carlson data suggests that almost 40% of the

population actively uses more than one card, with 12% using four or

more. The effect of this will be to put them on more lists.

Thomson Intermedia launched its unique service, DART, last year, in

collaboration with the market research company, GfK Marketing Services.

It tracks the direct mail received by the 6000 consumers on GfK’s

consumer panel, including the source of the mailing and creative


The company is just completing its first year of data collection. The

table below shows the biggest mailers in four categories, for the period

February-December, 1998.



1   MBNA International              46,848,000

2   The Associates                  43,778,000

3   Cornhill Direct                 30,117,000

4   Barclaycard                     26,839,000

5   TSB                             24,963,000

6   Norwich Union Direct            23,364,000

7   Alliance & Leicester            21,900,000

8   M & S Financial Services        21,281,000

9   Capital One                     18,264,000

10  Goldfish                        17,170,000

Retail (inc home shopping and publishing)

1   Britannia Music Company         15,883,000

2   DFS                             14,803,000

3   Worldbooks                      12,863,000

4   Littlewoods                      9,577,000

5   Reader’s Digest Association      8,833,000

6   Empire                           7,739,000

7   La Redoute                       7,410,000

8   Index                            7,190,000

9   Freemans                         6,849,000

10  British Family Publisher         6,829,000


1   Saga Holidays                    2,062,000

2   Butlins                         1,415,2000

3   Barclaycard Travel Services        930,000

4   Thomson Cruises                    837,000

5   British Airways                    757,000

6   Florida Direct                     754,000

7   Eurotunnel                         693,000

8   Eclipse                            661,000

9   P&O                                579,000

10  Portland Direct                    435,000


1   Autonational Rescue              3,606,000

2   Ford                             2,773,000

3   Vauxhall                         1,874,000

4   Toyota                           1,608,000

5   Automobile Association           1,337,000

6   Citroen                          1,225,000

7   Renault                          1,084,000

8   Proton                           1,076,000

9   Peugeot                            988,000

10  Direct Line                        896,000


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