Jodie is sitting in the half light, hunched over a guitar. The copy says she loves it and hates to be silenced. Intriguing? The direct agency merges with the marketing services provider. Inevitable?
The link between the two is the decision of Entire and Marketing Databasics to come together under the name Indicia to offer what they describe as a “new breed of direct agency” with customer intelligence at its heart. The teaser email campaign (and T-shirts for high value targets) used consumer profiles and classic creative to show what that might mean.
In an economic climate that has seen many suppliers forced into arranged marriages just to survive, selling Indicia as a genuine added-value proposition is not easy. It helps that both companies are already part of the Indicia Group, rather than being brought together as part of a deal.
Ian Stockley, managing director of the new Indicia company, explains that, “group CEO David Perkins saw this coming big time in the United States – customer intelligence becoming more critical across the piece. It is beginning to happen here in the UK and will grow rapidly in the next 12 months.”
To make that happen involves a combination of elements. Two of them are technical competencies around both data and software. Driving customer intelligence out through marketing channels demands that they are combined to create messages that reflect the personality and preferences of the target and meet the technical standards necessary for distribution.
Entire started life in 2000 with the proposition of driving communications through customer knowledge. Stockley says that this plan was “pushed out of kilter” as a result of the early success of its data co-operative. “Select UK was launched at the time of the Electoral Register opt-out. Our users were very big users of that data, like Reader’s Digest, Barclaycard and Shop Direct,” he recalls.
Success as a data owner tended to overshadow the idea of Entire as an insight-driven creative agency. “We became known as a competitor to companies like CACI, Experian and Equifax, rather than as an agency,” says Stockley.
An important shift started to happen in early 2008 that significantly blurred the lines between those two worlds. “Direct marketing based on quarterly campaigns to four million people using third-party lists suddenly wasn’t happening,” recalls Stockley. Instead, marketing was moving rapidly online behind clients shifting to e-business in response to the newly-connected consumer. “Shop Direct is looking to get 70 per cent of its business online in 2010,” he says.
As the velocity of that work increased, so did its complexity. In 2009, clients were looking to use email as a cold acquisition channel with dynamic content, at the right time and frequency, while also tying open and clickthrough to website visits to allow for follow-up and reactivation messaging.
Achieving that demands a particular type of technical infrastructure, which is what Marketing Databasics had been building, especially through its tie-up with Speed-Trap. “They have the technical implementation and analytics side and we have the customer insight side,” says Stockley. “They use insight to make campaigns more effective.”
After realising the potential synergy of a formal merger, internal restructuring began in October last year. Technical solutions are now based in Edinburgh offering support for database building and multi-channel campaign implementation, while planning, creative and data sourcing is based in Bristol. Both sites will work on customer insight projects.
Stockley believes that Indicia will now be among a new competitor set, such as WDP, Rapp and Targetbase Claydon Healey that have also brought together the technical and data competencies with creative and planning. He points out that in its review of UK MSPs last year, Forrester Research already ranked Marketing Databasics as second only to Rapp.
“A lot of people say they are going into that space, but they will succeed only if they are led by the customer and can align insight with creative in converged channels,” says Stockley.
Certainly the picture of what clients want has become more intriguing. Shop Direct is working with Teradata and Speed-Trap on a proof of concept to make its database more effective at driving digital markeitng plans, for example. “We’re going into the marketing side of that process,” he says. If other clients follow that lead, then the Indicia merger will prove to have been inspired.