Direct marketing’s image as the poor relation of advertising is little more than journalists’ conceit, according to industry founder John Watson, who claims DM is on an equal footing with most clients, and, in many cases, ahead of it.
Speaking exclusively to DecisionMarketing for a profile article (which will be published in full this week), Watson lays the blame fairly and squarely on some sections of the marketing press.
He said: “We’re still down the pecking order as far as Campaign is concerned, but grown-up clients these days don’t see the same silos and are working with a much more integrated marketing structure.”
His views are reinforced by others in the industry, most notably former IPA chief Hamish Pringle, who recently declared “We’re all in DM now”. Meanwhile, there are some who claim most publications hand the direct marketing and data sector to inexperienced journalists or those with little interest in the subject.
Watson – who started his career aged 16 as a post-room boy only to become one of the most powerful men in the DM industry as chairman of WWAV Rapp Collins – will next year celebrate 50 years in the business, and says he has “enjoyed every minute of it”.
In 1976 he joined forces Drayton Bird and Glenmore Trenear-Harvey to set up one of the first direct marketing agencies in the UK – Trenear-Harvey Bird & Watson – which paved the way for today’s industry.
Watson co-founded WWAV in 1982, bedded in the merger with Rapp Collins and oversaw exponential growth in the business before stepping down in 2000. He returned two years later, co-founding Watson Phillips Norman, now WPN Chameleon.
However, he recognises that for some clients working with agencies is not always ideal. Watson explains: “Argumentative, opinionated agencies get in the way of the smooth progress of marketing campaigns and that really does annoy too many clients. You end up getting the work out on time, but was it worth getting the work out at all?
“Agencies are staffed with difficult, arrogant and annoying people. If you can’t get on with the prima-donnas, you probably shouldn’t be using an agency at all. There are plenty of good studios…”
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