The decision by the US Direct Marketing Association to dump the word ‘direct’ from its moniker and replace it with ‘data’ has prompted yet more soul searching over this side of the pond.
Our very own DMA is also believed to be wringing its hands about what to do with its own name – ‘direct’ being seen a perennially unfashionable (and in some quarters of public opinion and Parliament perhaps a dirty) name.
Once again this is an example of our part of the advertising industry trapped in a circle of navel-gazing when it should be on the front foot, celebrating its considerable achievements rather than pandering to popular misconception.
In the past we have seen our industry trapped in interminable internal debates about what we should call ourselves – are we data-driven marketers, CRM agencies, customer experience agencies, integrated agencies, digitally integrated agencies, direct advertising agencies (and I’m sure I’ve missed a few iterations).
This self-obsession is unhealthy. Instead of endless pondering over what we should call ourselves, why don’t we just produce brilliantly creative work that demonstrates just what direct marketing is, and how effective it is?
It’s noticeable that our advertising cousins never get trapped in a debate like this. They just don’t worry about it. They just do it, creating work they want to make; work that they see is innovative and exciting. They call everything they make advertising and, when it works, the public responds with “Wow. Look at that!” and the rest of the industry looks on jealously.
It’s because advertising agencies have won the PR war. Advertising folk have us focus on the 10% of work they do that is great and have us ignore the 90% that isn’t. Meanwhile, we direct folk let the focus be on the 10% of the work that we do that is rubbish, or misguided, and let the 90% of the work that we do that is great go past unnoticed.
Please. Stop with the navel gazing and let’s get on with doing it. If collectively we can’t show what direct means, what right do we have to be in the communications business at all?
Ben Rachel is founding partner and planning director of Soul.