The Incompetence of General Ad Agencies
This was a banner week for marketers and their ad agencies crying HELP! The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal ran long stories about the inability of Web advertisers to determine whether their ads were effective or not.
I have spent 45 years in the world of direct marketing, a discipline that is able to measure results down to a gnat’s eyebrow—whether it be mail, space. TV, radio, telephone or the Web. Our feedback comes directly from those to whom we advertise.
Yet the world of general agencies has somehow conned the dumb little yuppie MBA corporate brand managers into believing that it’s okay to spend millions and then rely on the analytics and electronics of third parties to guess whether the money is being well spent.
The situation is sick, sick, sick.
Meet Joan Manley
When Jerry Hardy founded Time-Life Books—turning the massive magazine archives into a magnificent publishing enterprise—his secretary, Joan Manley, was as brilliant as he was. When Hardy moved on, Manley took over as CEO.
Periodically Joan Manley would fly out to her Chicago distribution center and physically go through raw orders—hand-opening Business Reply Envelopes and seeing what they contained.
Manley knew she was not in retail with the luxury of face-to-face interaction with real customers. Hers was the business of manipulating people over long distances using paper.
Apart from random incoming and outgoing phone calls and letters of complaint, examining raw orders is the only way a direct marketer can be directly in touch with the customer.
The same principle holds today. The difference: electronics has replaced paper.
A Personal Aside
A number of years ago I attended Fundraising Day in New York where a guy from Father Flannigan’s Boys and Girls Town was a panelist. One of the mainstays of charity mail is the use of personalized address labels as the freemium (a free goodie in the outgoing envelope). When a consumer receives a sheet of personalized labels to use on the family’s outgoing mail, it lays on a guilt trip that results in a precisely measurable increase in contributions.