The DNA of DMA09 – The top 5 insights from the world’s biggest direct marketing event

You just know that anything pitched as the global event for integrated marketing is going to be as huge as American meal portion sizes. And DMA 09 in sunny San Diego sure didn’t disappoint, with 6 days of world class keynotes, thought leadership sessions and best practice case studies, alongside the world’s biggest marketing exhibition.

To put the scale of this event in perspective, it took half an hour just to walk from one end of the exhibition hall to the other.

Being held in the United States, DMA 09 didn’t hold back on the sensationalism. From speakers wearing lab coats and calling themselves “Conversion Scientists”, to putting 3 email marketers in a cage for the Ultimate Email Championship, to Dominos delivering 12,000 free oven baked sandwiches.

But the prize for the biggest idea would have to go to Ford, who gave a lucky attendee a two week test drive in a new Fiesta. What’s cool about that? The test drive happens 8 months before the car is released to the general public.

Attendees were down this year due to the financial bomb that hit many marketing and education budgets, but 8,000 marketers from over 100 countries still managed to turn up to find out what the future of direct marketing might look like. And with Martha Stewart as the keynote, I’m sure everyone was also hoping they may take home some great quiche recipes.

Unfortunately no recipies were divulged, but there were 5 key insights I was able to glean from “the land up over”.

1. Multichannel is the buzzword

As important a subject as it is, it was refreshing to attend a conference where the key topic wasn’t social media. What DMA09 was more concerned about was the concept of “multichannel”, or how we can get all the marketing silos (including social media) to start working together for a more powerful outcome. According to the keynote, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is all about omnipresence. “We want their eyeballs and we don’t care what channel they are in”.

In the new multichannel world, data and analytics are the currency, and that is “the DNA of the DMA” according to DMA CEO John Greco. Rather than being a new idea, it turns out the old direct marketing mantra is stronger than ever: to reach the right customer, at the right time, in the right channel, with the right offer.

Building on the idea of multichannel, was the inclusion of direct TV and Radio sessions on the conference schedule. Addressable TV advertising is the most cutting edge, with the ability to deliver interactive ads direct to a targeted customer, who can respond without leaving the couch.

This has been tested in local markets in the US, and a joint venture between the big 4 cable networks are working towards rolling the technology out nationally. In Australia we have seen interactive TV for some time with Foxtel’s red button, but we are yet to see addressable advertising. My guess is it can’t be too far away.

2. Video delivers results

Video is easily the most engaging mediums that marketers have at their disposal. However, until now it has been the realm of brand advertisers, rather than direct marketers. But this is changing with according to one speaker, more retail marketers prioritising video over social media in their 2009 digital marketing strategies.

More than just building video into websites, direct marketers such as Turner Sports are now building live streaming videos into emails and achieving a 13% higher click through rates. At present this capability can only be supported by AOL, but when others such as Microsoft enable video within their email platforms, the possibilities for direct marketers are limitless.

Another video technology that direct marketers can start to get excited about is the emergence of variable video. As an example of this technology, the worlds largest adventure travel company called Backroads have developed a family trip advisor that based on the answers to four simple questions pieces together a seamless customised video of recommended holidays.

Customers that use the variable video trip advisor have double the response rate over those who don’t. That is innovation direct marketers can take to the bank.

3. Social media is not an island.

Social media of course received its fair share of coverage, but it was more about how it integrates into everything else in the marketing plan, rather than operating as an island.

Scott Monty, Global Digital and Communications Manager for Ford Motor Company claimed that “90% of social media is just showing up. The other half is hard.” The other half that he mentions is all about “getting paid, owned and earned media all working together”.

How companies are trying to achieve that varies. At Ford, they are aiming for 1% of all employees to be active brand advocates in social media. At Hyundai, they are plugging social media into their Customer Relationship Management system.

4. Personalised URLs (PURLS) and landing pages

If there was anything from DMA09 that I will implement as soon as I get back to Australia it will be Personalised URLs and landing pages. For those who haven’t heard of PURLS try this scenario.

Imagine receiving a personalised direct mail piece featuring a call to action to visit When you type in your personalised URL you get a totally personalised webpage featuring your name, mentions of your previous purchase behaviour, customised offers, and more.

Deadly effective? You bet.

And the best part is that it is entirely scaleable so that you can deliver true one-to-one marketing across channels for hundreds of thousands of customers.

5. Mobile’s time has come

Outside of SMS, and despite all the hype around the iPhone, to date mobile marketing has suffered from scale issues. However, this is not the case anymore, with brands such as ESPN’s mobile traffic for the first time in 2009 exceeding its website traffic.

And guess what the latest polls show people want for Christmas this year? A smart phone.

The most ubiquitous digital device in the world is in too many pockets not to be huge. However the technical issues for marketers are impressive, with a multitude of handsets and an increasing number of applications stores.

The challenges are big, but it appears that so are the opportunities.

Rethink your DNA

In summary, DMA09 really lived up to its name as the global event for integrated marketing.

The power of direct marketing going forward has even converted some of the most traditional brand advertisers. Shelly Lazarus Chairman Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide and DMA Hall of Fame Inductee said it best when she stated that:

all advertisers are now direct marketers, because we have to be.

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Categories: Advertising, Digital Marketing, Direct Marketing, International Marketing, Multi Channel Marketing


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