Email marketing lacks the innovation other channels show

I have recently been toying with the insertable video screens produced by Americhip that ran in US magazine Entertainment Weekly. Nik Margolis, head of digital and direct at DCH explains further.

Nik Margolis
Nik Margolis

The screens featured some 40 minutes of video promoting forthcoming CBS shows and commercials for Pepsi.

A great innovation? You open up a magazine and there is a flat screen video, inserted in the magazine itself, and it starts playing. Superb. Absolutely prohibitively expensive to make a business case, but we all have clients who want to innovate and I love each and every one of them.

I cut my teeth on magazine inserts. I remember my first real project was a magazine insert for Barclaycard in the mid-nineties. It was a 6pp roll fold and it was a thing of real beauty.

It required a photo shoot of a broken down car, which in itself took two days. I can remember the response rate and the stock (we pored over stock samples), and the sense of achievement. And now we are inserting video screens. Video screens!

As direct marketers, it is surely the search for innovation that keeps us going. I can remember shooting DRTV commercials back in the 90s. Now we are running interactive ‘red button’ ads that take the viewer online while they are watching television, the very definition of interaction.

Outdoor has moved on from the 96 sheet or bus-side to interactive posters which can receive texts or push Bluetooth messages. It makes waiting for a tube much livelier.

So what has happened with email? Back in 2001 I worked for a company that developed the ability to stream personalised movies into emails; we made the Churchill dog talk to people. Brilliant. Nearly ten years on I open my emails and what? Well, there is an awful lot of emails with massive red crosses, a lot of copy that looks like it has been written by a marketing manager not a copywriter and the occasional email from Volvo that is addressed to someone else.

I have worked in a number of direct disciplines – from call centres and brochure fulfilment to traditional below the line, and now digital – and nowhere has the pace of improvement been as slow as in email marketing.

The lack the investment brands show in direct mail or more traditional channels is disheartening. The industry itself is still dominated by self-serving ‘ESPs’ that publish ‘research’ about the importance of a sender’s name. This is ten years old. Where is the real innovation? Who is really using email as a direct marketing channel, and not a cheap route to market?

No one who is emailing me, that much is for certain.

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