AGENDA: Biting the hands that feed IDM is bad for business

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.

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.


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