In a recent issue of Marketing (November 5) I read of a splendid
new wheeze the Institute of Direct Marketing has just come up with.
Splendid, for them, anyhow.
They are offering a consultancy service to clients, using two fairly
well known experts, Paul McCarthy - a former agency head - and Iain
McConnachie, an American Express alumnus.
Those of you who persist so admirably in reading these maunderings week
after week will know I’m generally a great advocate of the Institute, so
much so I may sometimes appear to be a lobbyist of theirs.
In this case, though, I think that whoever came up with the idea must
have kangaroos loose in the top paddock. To explain why, let me give you
the gist of a conversation with a respected consultant whose opinion I
His reaction, accompanied by trails of blue smoke emerging from both
ears, was vivid. If it typifies that of others in his position - and
there is good reason to think it may - this new idea has in one stroke
alienated many of the IDM’s most fervent supporters.
’For years I have done work for the IDM’, he said, ’because I believe in
the industry. I have done it either for nothing or a great deal less
than it is worth. Now they have set up in competition with me.’
He went on to say: ’The work I do provides employment for quite a few
other people. Usually a consultancy project ends in more permanent work,
creative stuff and so forth. I have just completed a project for one big
firm that will produce work to keep nine or ten people busy for four
’This is the sort of consultancy the IDM is proposing to take away from
me, though they do not have the facility to execute the recommendations
they make, as I have.’
My reaction is not so vehement, but one thing about this new scheme
astonished me and that is that nobody asked me, or him, about it.
’Why should they?’ you may ask. The reason is simple: he is a member of
the IDM, and in 1994 I became one of their first six honorary
Surely fellows and members should be consulted by the organisation to
which they belong before it decides to compete with them. What is more,
organisations should stick to what they are organised to do - in the
case of the IDM, training - and not stray into other areas outside, to
use that ludicrous business phrase, their core competency.
In short, this seems a thoroughly bad idea. Who knows: will the IDM next
decide to run an agency? What is completely repugnant to consultants
like my friend is that besides having to compete with all the other
consultants - which God knows is hard enough - now he has these two
other people to worry about. People with an inside track through an
industry body that deals with a great number of firms and appears at any
rate to be impartial.
Ingenious - but deplorable, I fear.