DHL's bold drive against bigger competitors

By Published on .

Richard Metzler
Title: Exec VP-marketing, DHL Americas
Company: DHL
Years in current job: 1
Quote: “We had to nail it on creative, and we did.”

Richard Metzler, exec VP-marketing for DHL Americas, enjoys the freedom that comes with being an underdog, like being able to talk about, even take jabs at, the competition. [The DHL campaign is the winner of the integrated campaign category in this issue, page 28.]

There's the 150-foot billboard near UPS headquarters in Atlanta that reads "Yellow. It's the new brown." There's the print ad that mentions different empires, including the FedEx empire, followed by the phrase "Nothing lasts forever." There's the television spot showing its rivals' delivery trucks stuck at a railroad crossing as a long line of shiny new yellow DHL trucks pass by on freight cars. The same theme is also hammered home in direct mail and telemarketing efforts.

The 360-degree marketing campaign, unveiled in June with the tagline "Competition. Bad for them. Good for you," follows the merger last year of DHL and Airborne Express. Ogilvy & Mather, New York, developed the ad campaign; Ogilvy PR Worldwide is charged with a complementary public relations program.

"Even with the acquisition of Airborne, we're still a No. 3 against two 800-pound gorillas that have more money than God," said Metzler, who spent almost 20 years in FedEx's marketing department. "You have to be a little masochistic to take this on."

Given that it's DHL's first advertising since the early 1980s, Metzler considered it critical to refer to FedEx and UPS by name so as to define its own abilities in the express delivery market to U.S. customers. While he's had fun with the initial phase of the marketing effort, which has focused on the choice of shipping options available to business customers, Metzler says the message will shift to DHL's flexibility and customer contact next year. Still, he promises the next phase will be just as much fun.

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