The British media, upholders of what is great about Britain? It is an industry which makes claims such as “the paper that stands for real values”, “we’ve got the greatest writers”, and “Nation shall speak peace unto Nation”.
Shame then, that they are so economical with the truth when it comes to reporting on the direct marketing industry.
Just last week, the Daily Mail ran a story under the headline: “Millions are facing junk mail deluge: Secret Royal Mail plan to deliver marketing letters to shoppers who simply click on a product online.” With the kind of bile normally reserved for asylum seekers and EU migrants, the outraged Mail bemoaned the fact that consumers would actually receive direct mailshots promoting products and services that they could just be interested in. Heaven forbid.
Of course, what it failed to report is that the Mail has a huge direct marketing operation itself, and even sells its own readership data to all and sundry.
Berating the fact that Royal Mail “earns £3m a day from junk mail”, it also chose to ignore the fact that, as one of the few profitable parts of the business, direct mail props up the Universal Service – viewed as a national treasure by Mail readers and journalists alike.
However, it was not alone in its condemnation. A week before that, BBC Radio 4 claimed the Corporation had “discovered” that charity marketers actually buy mailing lists to target potential donors.
The You and Yours consumer rights programme bizarrely claimed it had a virtual “world exclusive” that “some of the UK’s biggest charities – including Cancer Research UK, Marie Curie, NSPCC, Save The Children and The British Red Cross” – had admitted to such a practice.
Of course, this tirade against our industry is nothing new. Back when it was announced that Kate Middleton was to marry Prince William, the Mail, the Daily Telegraph and The Times all got very sniffy, claiming that her parents’ Party Pieces business “exploited” customers by selling their data for £20,000 a time.
Yet again, they failed to mention that The Telegraph Group pioneered the use of database marketing as far back as the late Nineties; News International soon followed suit, and Mail owner DMGT has been using direct marketing for years.
According to the DMA’s own figures, a quarter – 23% – of UK companies’ sales turnover is attributed to direct marketing. When extrapolated to all UK businesses, the DMA claims this is equivalent to sales of £700bn out of a total national figure of £3trillion.
The employment figures are also striking. Direct marketing directly and indirectly accounts for 530,000 UK jobs. This compares favourably with the employment figures of a number of other key sectors in the UK economy, such as civil service 489,000, agriculture 500,000 and publishing 243,000.
And, let’s face it, if the daughter of a couple who run a direct marketing business is good enough for the Windsors of Windsor, and the Queen of 16 of the 53 member states in the Commonwealth of Nations, Head of the Commonwealth and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, then surely it’s good enough for the British media.
Or, to borrow a slogan once used by The Times, “Have you ever wished you were better informed?”
Charlie McKelvey is publishing editor of DecisionMarketing.co.uk
This article was first published on the DMA website