Is social media the great leveler between hardcore direct marketing and soft-core branding?
January 25, 2010
Let’s be honest, direct marketing has always been overshadowed (if not dismissed) by its more glamorous older brother, Advertising. Building brands via great stories has defined our industry for years. So-called “junk mail” and “infomercials” are considered stepchildren. Forget how much revenue DM creates, our industry has always given the love to its darlings. Consider the Superbowl or Cannes. DM has nothing remotely like them in terms of sizzle and prestige. Even the trades favor advertising. After all, the prefix to Adweek and Adage is “ad.”
When agencies merged and got swallowed by holding companies, ad firms and DM shops were thrust together, often unsuccessfully. The battles waged between above and below line practitioners became legend in our industry. Many were and still are contentious, resembling class wars or high school shenanigans. The tumultuous marriage between Draft and FCB is perhaps the best-known example.
Not long ago a new baby came along. Colicky to the extreme, ‘Digital’ demanded everyone’s attention. Even advertising took a back seat. (Baby needs her momma!) Digital quickly grew into a demanding and sexy young woman. She was the bomb. And still is. During these last few years, one could argue direct marketing went from being a stepchild to the middle child. Not to mix metaphors, but never the bride’s maid…
Enter Social Media. Try as we must, social media cannot be “owned” by advertising or digital agencies. It’s as if word of mouth became viral. Call it “world of mouth.” Regardless of your definition, if marketers aspire getting into these conversations we’re going to need tactics and schemes resembling those used by direct marketers. For every commercial downloaded enough times to matter, there are countless millions of deeper connections capable of being monetized. Can you say Search?
As marketers scramble to “get social” I found the similarities between SM and DM irresistible to point out. I may have come from the advertising side but I’ve always respected the rest. Is SM the great equalizer, leveling the playing field between Direct, Digital, Data and Advertising? One thing is certain; the agency of the future must pay heed to them all.