The Absolute Truth About Marketing
Friday, February 03, 2006
  Rewriting DM Rules for the Web? Rubbish!
I’ve been around long enough to have heard every third rate sales pitch agencies can make as to why you should choose their type of advertising or their particular brand of creative brilliance. Ever since David Ogilvy wrote “Confessions of an Ad Man” and set himself up as the expert on advertising - his book written solely to attract more clients - less talented followers have attempted to cloak their new business strategy in the robes of a serious contribution to knowledge of the discipline.

The pea and thimble trick has now moved online, the home of the arrogant young things who believe they have discovered a world where all the rules of life are new and different. Paul Epstein, described as “CEO of High Voltage Interactive, the internet's premier lead generation and customer acquisition company”, has rewritten the rules of direct marketing for the Internet “space”. (Note to the uninitiated: there are no rules of direct marketing. There are only human reactions to communications that have been repeated often enough to become expectations.)

Writing on the emarketing hub imediaconnection.com (worth a look), Paul has a go at hijacking the old list/offer/creative impact formula, seeking to reweight it in favour of what he’s good at: creative and technology. Here is a heavily-editted version of Paul’s argument:

“Ed Mayer literally wrote the book on direct marketing. In the 1960's, after 30 years as a mail advertising pioneer, he popularized his "40/40/20 Rule," the formula that still guides most of the world's direct marketing campaigns. By his assessment, successful direct marketing campaigns should be built by focusing one's attention on audience, offer and creative in the following percentages:
• 40 percent audience
• 40 percent offer
• 20 percent creative

Ed Mayer died in 1975, when the internet was still the stuff of science fiction. He probably couldn't have predicted how, in a mere quarter century, our lives would revolve around personal computers…Any company that bases its interactive marketing strategy on 40/40/20 is missing a critical piece of the 21st century's direct marketing equation: technology.

Is there any real comparison between sorting through a handful of paper from your mailbox and interacting with the online world? With that as a starting point, we propose what we'll call the "4-Way Split Rule:"
• 25 percent audience
• 25 percent offer
• 25 percent creative
• 25 percent technology…

The nature and delivery of creative content changed dramatically when a whole new world began happening on a screen 18 inches in front of our eyes. Online consumers are under such heavy data bombardment that offers lacking creativity simply cannot penetrate their defenses...

The 40/40/20 Rule assigns a mere 20 percent of the pie to creative content because, in Ed Mayer's time, the main variables in creative messaging were limited to font choices and background colors. Under our 4-Way Split Rule, however, interactive marketers are free to play with an increasingly versatile media array…

Pual invited feedback on his article. So I sent him this email:

Dear Paul,

I know where Ed Mayer got his data. From testing in the real world of response. I have even more real world data on the split. When I was with Ogilvy & Mather Direct, our London office ran a 12-cell test program to measure the relative contribution of the three basic elements of response to the final outcome of a campaign. When the List was made the variable, the Offer and Creative being the same in all three cells, the difference between the best and worst performing cell was 700%. When the Offer was the variable, the difference was 300%. But when the Creative was made the variable the difference was only 135%. This test produced a split of 62:26:12. I believe these percentages are more accurate that Ed's rule of thumb. For reasons of logic. Get even a mediocre offer to the right person and you have a chance to make a sale. Get the world's best offer to the wrong person and it's no sale. Deliver the world's best offer via the world's best creative solution to the wrong person and it's "NO SALE"... These are not DM "rules". They are facts based on human nature.

Your introduction of "Technology" as a variable is not supported by evidence that the creative mechanisms of the Internet are different in essence to those of traditional DM. They are new ways of doing the same old thing - attracting attention, getting interaction and engagement with the communication long enough to register with the prospect what the deal is and how it will benefit them. Direct mail is "Technology". It is a delivery platform. The Internet is another delivery platform. I can't see the logical distinction between "Technology" and "Creative". If you have data which challenges the splits presented here, please correct me quickly... because I don't want to be giving people wrong information when there is data to set me right.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Kiely

I’ll let you know if he replies…
 
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