Some see it as petty bickering; others as protagonists simply making sure their rival doesn’t get away with murder. X-Factor judges? Apprentice contestants? Nope. I’m talking about the DM industry’s very own battle royal – the public spat between The REaD Group and Millennium over each other’s advertising claims.
This week, it is REaD Group’s turn to crack open the bubbly, after managing to get the Advertising Standards Authority to ban Millennium’s ad for Mortascreen, in which it claimed: “Access up to 5 times more deceased records. Mortascreen. More records. More recent. More reliable.”
Of course, two weeks ago, it was Millennium bosses who were celebrating, having seen the ASA ban an ad for the Bereavement Register in which the REaD Group claimed to be “market leaders for fast accurate deceased suppression data”.
Now, no-one is disputing the companies’ entitlement to challenge what they see as wild advertising claims – it is a basic right of any business to protect their products and services. And while many in the industry will no doubt be chuckling to themselves about this tit-for-tat action, shouldn’t we be concerned that it threatens to overshadow the bigger picture – that suppression files are essential in protecting a brand’s reputation, in slashing waste and – equally as crucial – in protecting the DM industry from draconian legislation?
Back in 2003, when the DMA signed a deal with Defra, much of the focus was on waste reduction from direct mailing campaigns. The agreement requires the DM industry to hit a staggered series of targets over ten years for reducing the volume of direct mail going into landfill sites. These targets were set at 30 per cent by 2005, 55 per cent by 2009 and 75 per cent by 2013.
The first target was missed (just); the second was achieved; the third is still three years away, so not impossible. The fact that mailing volumes have tumbled since 2003 is irrelevant; the sector still has to reach that 75 per cent figure.
But mailings are now only one facet of direct marketing; these days brands are more likely to be contacting consumers online, via email and mobile than they are by post. Are suppression companies working on services to cope with this new generation of DM techniques or are they relying on consumer opt-outs?
The old expression “fiddling while Rome burns” springs to mind. Let’s hope I’m wrong (it’s not unknown…)
Charlie McKelvey, publishing editor