The future of direct marketing: The line does not exist

For as long as anyone cares to remember, the marketing industry has been divided by lines, namely: above the line; below the line; and more recently online.

Each division has had its own skill set, and unique way of measuring results so that apples could never be compared with apples.

After many attempts by people a lot smarter than myself to find a universal way to measure the value of marketing across media, we have shrugged our shoulders and learnt to accept that we are dealing with fruit salad, and not apples.

But as technology continues to advance, those mediums that we had once accepted as mass, or above the line, are changing, and fast.

Basically, all forms of media are becoming direct.


Because marketers have always wanted more accountability, and less wastage, and now we have technology that can deliver that capability.

So the question really is:

When all media becomes direct what does it mean for the marketing industry?

It means the line does not exist, and we can fire up the blender on this fruit salad.

It means it is time for direct marketers to stand up, grab the industry by the balls, and drag it into the future.

Let’s take a look at a few traditional above the line mediums are changing


Scared sh!tless by Google’s TV Ads, the major cable companies in the US have bound together to form Canoe Ventures. Canoe promises to be able to deliver marketers with the ability to address TV advertising direct to a defined consumers’ set top box, or in other words the ability to advertise tires only to people who own cars.

Canoe Ventures - Direct TV Advertising

Canoe Ventures - Direct TV Advertising

This is a big step in the right direction, but if a direct marketer was in charge of this project what would happen?

Do you remember the 2006 Silver Cannes Lion winning ‘Ave a word‘ campaign by Glue London for the Mini Cooper S?

Refresh your memory before reading on.

What if you could pre-populate the variables of the ad and deliver it direct to a targeted consumers’ television?

“Hello Christopher, have a butchers at this, it’s the new Mini Cooper S”

Mini Cooper S 'Ave a word' Campaign

Mini Cooper S 'Ave a word' Campaign

Hard to ignore? You betcha.

Deadly effective? Right again.

Sure there will be permission and privacy issues we will have to overcome, but you can’t stop progress.

In Australia, we have Foxtel’s red button to deliver more direct TV engagement, which has come a long way now that people have become accustomed to it.

Foxtel Red Button

Foxtel Red Button

Following the US lead, it is only a matter of time before Foxtel, Tivo and others start to deliver addressable TV advertising capabilities in Australia 


Digital radio plus is nearly here!

Digital Radio Plus

Digital Radio Plus

According to the website this will “facilitate additional advertising information on demand…and the new technology can take radio advertisements to a new level using images and text,”

Bring it on!

Putting my direct marketing hat on, this would be really cool if you plugged it into GPS, so I can target an ad from the local McDonalds as you are nearing on the highway.


Direct outdoor is also gaining pace, and the most exciting example I have seen lately is the bus shelter ad from Fitness First in the Netherlands.

Fitness First Bus Shelter Scale

Fitness First Bus Shelter Scale

The seat measures the weight of the commuter and displays it on a digital screen, Biggest Loser style! As a personal trainer, I am so proud, but I am also a masochist so go figure.   

If this is not PC enough for you, you could always use Pigeons with built in GPS for your direct outdoor.


Not only do we have SMS and Bluetooth for direct in the mobile space, Yahoo have recently announced they will be bringing online behavioural targeting to mobile.

Mobile Behavioural Targeting

Mobile Behavioural Targeting

Behavioural targeting is claimed to double the average ROI of traditional banner ads with click-through rates up to three times higher.

Multi Channel Direct

To try and make sense of this brave new world, we have formed a new ADMA Multi-Channel Acquisition Council, where we will be discussing a lot of the implications of all mediums becoming direct.

Check out more on this topic

I recently expanded on this thinking in a feature article for Direct Marketing International

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Categories: Advertising, Marketing Strategy, Multi Channel Marketing


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2 Comments on “The future of direct marketing: The line does not exist”

  1. June 5, 2009 at 7:33 am #

    da best. Keep it going! Thank you

  2. September 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm #

    Nice piece of analysis. Too many agencies and marketers still live in denial and are waiting for it all to end and go back to the way it was. Mostly, they are too scared to admit they don’t have a clue where it all is going. They shouldn’t worry: nobody does at this stage. It is the time when people who are willing to take risk and make mistakes will bubble to the top.

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