The rising tide of Direct Marketing

My last post pointed to some pretty bad behaviors by some companies for playing in the murky waters of the scammy ad ecosystem of social network games wonderfully outlined here by Michael Arrington at TechCrunch.

Sitting on the high end of the scale in terms of scam offers published and inexcusable behaviors from a CEO (see video here) is Offerpal.  Guess the Offerpal board must have agreed so the newly appointed CEO, George Garrick offered an apology (here). 

Public apologies are rare so this would have been a good one – except for one little thing.  Smack in the middle of his apology he makes this comment (below) about direct marketing that just gets my ire.  I know.  With all the fodder that the Scamville drama provides, why blog about this one little comment?  Maybe because I root for the underdog.  And maybe because it’s something that’s been bothering me for a while.

“Direct marketing, in particular lead-gen, has always been full of questionable, misleading, and outright fraudulent marketers and offers. We all get these daily via snail mail, email, phone, and late-night TV. Unfortunately, this is the nature of the Direct Marketing beast.”

Excuse me?

Like this is some sort of excuse for propagating consumer fraud?  Nothing like making a blatantly ignorant statement that blankets an entire industry based on a few bad apples.  Sort of like saying that all ad serving networks are negligent and therefore responsible for all online consumer fraud.  Wonderful, George.  I appreciate the apology on behalf of your former CEO’s policies and behaviors but don’t try to disparage and blame the entire direct marketing industry for your woes. 

So, to set the record straight, the Direct Marketing industry – even lead-gen, does NOT provide misleading or fraudulent offers on a daily basis, online or offline.  The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) has been around since 1917 and unlike Offerpal (launched in 2007), the direct marketing industry HAS an established code of ethics found here – a 42 page guide that covers among other things, honesty and clarity of the offer; sweepstakes; marketing to children; and the collection and use of data.

Like anything, there are always a few bad apples that spoil things for the rest (ya listening, George?) but the Direct Marketing industry has always been on the forefront of consumer and corporate responsibility.  Always sitting in the shadow of its much larger Advertising brother, the power of Direct Marketing has been overlooked for years.  But that tide is changing. 

As advertisers move to the internet looking for new eyeballs, they discovered metrics and data – something new to brand advertisers but squarely in the domain of direct marketing experts.  The internet is one of those unique mediums where brand advertising and direct marketing truly converge.   To fully understand internet marketing, direct marketers can and should learn from brand advertisers.  Conversely, brand advertisers can and should learn from direct marketers.  What makes direct marketing a beast is not the daily barrage of fraudulent offers but rather the complexity and magnitude of data (data source, data integrity, data trends…. data, data, data).  And that’s what makes direct marketing seem so foreign to a brand advertiser.  It’s a whole new language and it requires using a different hemisphere of your brain.  And it should be at the core of  your integrated marketing strategy.

More in another post.

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