Speaking Directly: One-to-one advertising is the most effective

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct marketing. Alternating columnists are Barbara Canning Brown, a leading figure in the Canadian direct marketing industry, and David Foley, a specialist in database marketing programs.Strategy also...

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct marketing. Alternating columnists are Barbara Canning Brown, a leading figure in the Canadian direct marketing industry, and David Foley, a specialist in database marketing programs.

Strategy also invites other news items or column submissions for this section. Enquiries should be directed to Mark Smyka, editor, (416) 408-2300.

It’s not just advertising anymore.

Let me be perfectly clear.

I spent many enjoyable years in the advertising agency business, and I was fortunate enough to have some terrific clients, including Calona Wines, Canon Canada, and Warner Lambert.

I was also assigned to the Colgate account for a couple of hours, during which time the big shots from the u.s. descended on the Toronto office.

Later, I invested time in the advertiser-dependent magazine publishing business, including the launch of a trade magazine that cost me lots of money.

It’s fair to say, I believed in advertising and I still believe in advertising. Just not in the same way.

The advertising industry shot itself in the foot by encouraging – even promoting – the unchecked propagation of new formats and media.

Quite apart from the sheer volume of commercial messages and their undeniable assault on the various target markets, it is ludicrous to think consumers of the ’90s are the same as their counterparts of the ’70s.

Today’s consumers are more wary, more cynical, and, in all probability, less well off than their ’70s counterparts.

More media advertising, or better media advertising, won’t abate these prevailing attitudes and influences on behavior.

In 1993, General Motors bought large blocks of media time with the specific objective of supporting the massive introduction (read: mail drop) of the GM Card, the most successful credit card launch in North America to date.

Previously, the accepted wisdom was to use the mail to support the media campaign.

In North America, Ford and ibm (both ‘blue chip’ advertisers, by any definition) are at present testing the role of infomercials in their respective media plans.

This new commercial message format has grown from obscurity to legitimacy in less than 10 years.

However, these modifications to the manner in which the tv medium is used is mere tinkering.

The truth is, we need to find new ways to connect with our customers and prospects, and, frequently, that task can be accomplished, more effectively, on a one-to-one basis.

Computer technology makes individual communication possible and economical, while the proliferation of media choices and the prevailing attitudes of customers make it necessary.

For instance, how does one combat the growing popularity of retailer-controlled brands?

Not with more advertising promotional allowances, both of which reduce margin without, necessarily, adding value.

Procter & Gamble has adopted everyday low pricing as its model. So, too, have Coke and Pepsi.

In Europe, Nestle is forging ahead with brand strategies that are predicated on direct and meaningful communication with users. (Rapp and Collins’ new book, Beyond MaxiMarketing, discusses the Nestle strategy and others with a similar customer-centred approach.)

A second truth is that the industry needs to replace its sectoral interests, of media, promotion, customer retention and so forth, with a unified vision of how our customers’ money should be invested.

Until then, we are teammates on opposite sides of the same game.

David Foley is a marketing consultant and an instructor in database marketing at York University in Toronto. He may be reached at (905) 940-8784; fax (905) 940-4785.