Iris chief executive Ian Millner has launched a scathing attack on the direct marketing industry (DM), saying its “conservatism” is causing it to lag way behind digital as a discipline.
His comments come as figures from Royal Mail show that direct mail volumes fell by more than 7% last year to their lowest level since 1999.
Millner, who founded Iris eight years ago, says the DM sector has been “stuck in a rut doing paper-based direct mail”, while digital has been “going through the roof”.
He adds: “The direct marketing industry is so conservative and that has stopped it innovating. In theory, direct should be leading the evolution of digital. If practitioners could just apply some of their skills to more areas and be more entrepreneurial then direct marketing would be the key player in making integration work. But their attitude doesn’t allow that to happen.”
Millner adds that the rate of growth in digital has been so significant that direct marketing is now seen as something that supports digital campaigns. “The best talent is no longer in direct agencies,” he says. “The industry has lost its confidence and lost its ability to think for the future. The best DM agencies were the ones that were able to be both scientific and creative. But because of budgetary pressures the opportunities for elaborate and expensive and highly creative direct mail have now gone.”
The Royal Mail figures reveal that the number of direct mail items sent last year dropped to 4.65 billion, down from 5.02 billion in 2006 and a high of 5.43 billion in 2003.