Choice should include offering the chance to say no thanks

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One theme that will increasingly occupy the minds of marketers in the coming years is choice. Demanding customers want to consume what they want, when they want, how they want.

The consumption of marketing communications is no different – consumers want to feel that they have a modicum of control.

The television industry has recognised this. ITV is mulling a new ad format on its video on demand service ITV Player that allows users to skip ads if they correctly answer questions based on the brand or product in the spot. Channel 4 is one of several broadcasters trialing an ad format that allows viewers to choose which ad they want to watch from multiple brands ahead of video-on-demand content.

Now, they will still have to watch the ads – broadcasters and brands need to make a living – but consumers offered choice feel empowered and more readily willing to engage with the advertiser offering the option.

Direct marketers have fewer options so are unable to replicate their counterparts from other channels. They can, however, make some efforts to offer consumers a choice of what they receive and when.

Indeed, there is already a movement in that direction. The Green Preference Service, launched in June and attracting noteworthy interest, offers consumers a choice of whether they want to receive DM by physical or electronic mail.

Parking the arguments about whether or not GPS leans unfairly towards email at the expense of print (see comments on the launch story), its relative success to date demonstrates that there is an appetite for choice.

Direct marketing is continually dogged by mostly unwarranted accusations that it is unscrupulous in its approach – carpet bombing consumers with junk mail and spam email with little or no regard for those they are actually “targeting”.

One way of tackling this is offering choice. Not only how they receive DM but whether they receive it. It shouldn’t be left up to a consumer to contact industry run opt out services, opt out should be proactively offered by brands in a very deliberate visible fashion, front and centre on any DM sent of any description.

As counter-intuitive as that might seem, customers that do not take up a brands’ offer of opting out will be more receptive.

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