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While the World Wide Web struggles with its growth pains, marketers' long-running romance with the more familiar "interactive" media of direct marketing is as hot as ever.

At its annual convention last week, the Direct Marketing Association unveiled research that says $12 of every $100 spent on consumer goods and services is generated by direct marketing efforts. That translates to an estimated $595 billion sparked by direct marketing in 1995. In the business-to-business arena, direct is credited with $5 of every $100 in sales, or an estimated $498 billion in 1995.

WEFA Group, author of the study, predicts direct marketing techniques will increase their share of total consumer and business-to-business sales slowly but steadily through the end of the 1990s. Media examined in the study included direct mail, telephone marketing, newspaper, magazine, TV, radio, out-of-home, fax, package inserts, point-of-purchase and the new online media. An ad was considered "direct response" if it was designed to stimulate a direct order or a qualified lead, or to drive store traffic.

The demand for advertising that generates a direct, trackable "response" from recipients seems unstoppable for now, although shifting costs, regulatory considerations and other influences affect which individual direct marketing media grow or shrink.

There will always be the need for great advertising that gives brands and companies an image and a personality. But managers' thirst for two-way contact with customers and potential customers is hard to quench. The adperson who is master of this particular form of "conversation" can expect a growing role in tomorrow's marketing world.

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