Your article “Original Sin” (MW September 12) raised some interesting points. Underlying them all, however, was the assumption that clients know how to evaluate a direct marketing agency’s creative product. A good piece of direct mail requires as much love and craft as any big-budget TV production. However, few of us have ever directed a film. We have all written a letter. Brand advertising (particularly if it is global) uses as few words as possible. Direct marketing is copy-focused – to get a response from the consumer, you need to be clear about what they are responding to. Direct marketing comes down to detail.
This gives clients room to tinker – with copy, headlines, images, colours and budgets – so that the final piece is a mixture of the original creative work and what the account handler has managed to convince the client and the creative to accept without either punching them. It takes a remarkably disciplined client to look at a page-long piece of copy without changing a word here or a sentence there – particularly when they are trying to keep their jobs and need to demonstrate ownership of a particular piece of work. The natural consequence of this is that when choosing an agency, clients choose it on the basis of what it can do that they can’t do themselves -and if the strategy is bang on, they can always tinker with the creative later, since “we are paying the bill, aren’t we?”