Ten years ago, Decision Marketing was launched as a platform for the data and direct marketing industry, which, although contributing £205bn to the UK economy and directly employing more than a million people, had found itself without a dedicated business magazine.
Back then, UK business publishing houses Haymarket and Centaur Media, which had previously run four separate magazine brands – Direct Response, Marketing Direct, Precision Marketing and Data Strategy – had deemed the sector far too boring (and apparently not lucrative enough in terms of advertising revenue) to even bother with.
This attitude was perhaps best demonstrated by one of my former bosses at Centaur, who told me: “Direct marketing’s just direct mail – and that’s a dying medium. We don’t think it has a future.”
Suffice to say, a decade and nearly 10,000 Decision Marketing articles later, the industry is not only alive and kicking, quite simply, if your company has not embraced a data-driven strategy, you might as well give up now.
The evidence has been stacking up, especially in these Covid times, of the sector’s resilience. Not only are data-driven firms handling the coronavirus fall-out better but have a much brighter future. They are also vastly outperforming their peers on multiple financial measures, realising more revenue per employee and driving higher profits. And the majority of firms which have linked online and offline data have witnessed double digit growth, as well as a marketing spend ROI to die for.
The crisis is also forecast to trigger a major surge in the markets for data analytics, identity solutions, location advertising, big data, and subscriptions analytics. Even the old stalwarts of direct mail and door-drops, which were supposedly six foot under a decade ago, have seen engagement levels soar.
Of course, some things never change and the industry is still wrestling with what to call itself, responsive advertising and direct marketing came and went for many, and now we’re in the glorious world of data-driven marketing, but its influence on the world of business is stronger than ever.
Where once the sector was derided by adland for producing “shit that folds”, the combination of technology and data is ushering in a new era of mass personalisation at scale, from artificial intelligence-based programmatic and customer data platforms to addressable TV and digital out of home. Suddenly it is adland, with its outdated practices and work silos, which seems like the poor relation.
After all, it’s no coincidence that when Publicis’ created its “Power of One” proposition it chose Epsilon, for which it paid $4.4bn (£3.4bn), to drive it; meanwhile IPG’s “marketing intelligence engine” is powered by Acxiom, acquired for $2.3bn (£1.7bn); WPP’s Data Alliance comprises over three dozen technology companies in combination with Wunderman, Kantar, and Group M; and Omnicom’s Precision Marketing Group aligns the company’s global digital, data and CRM capabilities under 12 agencies, including Rapp, Code, and Critical Mass.
Meanwhile, data-driven tech groups Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Salesforce, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft are the most powerful businesses on the planet.
Not that the industry has had an entirely smooth ride over the past ten years, and, in a series of articles in the coming weeks, we will be examining how the sector has tackled many of the big issues that have vexed even the most experienced professionals.
From data regulation, the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal and the scourge of nuisance calls to the threats of big tech, consumer privacy concerns and the future of traditional media, we’ve had it covered.
Finally, we’d like to acknowledge our thanks to readers, commercial partners and contributors for your continued support. Here’s to the next ten years; one thing’s for sure – it won’t be boring…