Delighted to have Shaun McIlrath writing this one. Shaun is a creative director at Hurrell and Dawson, London, and the former founder of Heresy and ImpactFCA! He is one of Britain’s most highly-regarded integrated creatives.


Dear Valued Blog Reader,

How does that introduction make you feel? Like a piece of shit, would be my guess. And yet, there are thousands of well-paid Direct Marketing professionals starting pieces of communication like this every day.

So, the first thing you need to know about Direct is that any advice you might get from a Direct ‘expert’ should be treated as deeply suspect.

This is how companies speak:

Dear Valued Customer.

As part of our ongoing improvement initiative we are centralising data, in order to provide a more streamlined service. We are also taking this opportunity to realign customer sales and are, therefore, in the process of updating our information. Enclosed you will find a Customer Satisfaction Questionnaire. Complete the FREEPOST form and send it back before June and you could WIN A HOLIDAY FOR TWO.


That is a real letter. From a company. It says only one thing: companies don’t give a fuck about you, they want your money and, at the end of the day, you are nothing more than a name on a list in a huge numbers game.

People, on the other hand…this is how people speak:

Dear Bob,

Since I was promoted to MD, I’ve noticed that no one tells me bad news any more. Now, I may just be paranoid, but I’m harbouring the suspicion that parts of our service aren’t as good as they could be. So, who better to ask than someone who uses it every day? Are we as good as we could be, or are there areas where we’re dodgy? Go on, give it to us right between the eyes – because, ultimately, my job depends on you being happy.


Notice the difference? It’s human, I feel valued and I might even be prepared to reply without the bribe.

If I had to distil everything I’ve learned into one sentence it would be this: it is your job to help your clients be uncorporate – to be human. You can do it through comms, or by working within the company to help make it more accessible and helpful to the customer – but do it, because it will make their behaviour more distinctive and their comms more engaging.

And why shouldn’t they be engaging? Why shouldn’t people look forward to the next piece of Direct from a company, the way Heineken drinkers used to look forward to the new TV spot?

Which leads me to my next point – most people think that Direct Marketing means Direct Mail.

Not the case. Sure, the DM industry mows down countless rainforests each year to clog up your letterbox with commercial effluent. But that’s only because it’s an industry entirely devoid of vision.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The new digital age should be the Direct industry’s birthright, because the digital space is all about relationships and good Direct practitioners understand those better than anyone else. But most DM companies are still folding paper or, at best, doing banner ads.

With the new ability to migrate relationships online comes a huge opportunity to create seriously great, bespoke communication. Stuff that could genuinely add value to consumers’ lives.

But have you seen or experienced any of this? No. Well, if you want to retire rich, here’s your chance.

Direct agencies should be producing more engaging pieces of work than any ad agency – all in a gloriously unregulated space.

A space where consumers are the marketing directors, with access to millions of people. What they say in a blog can be a million times more influential than any £10m TV campaign. Here they are both “dear” and “valued” customers.

So, we should think of Direct, not as a sales dialogue between company and consumer, but as a multilogue. Consumer-generated – real, human communications - not even remotely corporate, but facilitated by a corporation.

And Direct agencies? Imagine a hybrid between today’s digital agency and a TV company at the dawn of commercial television, making great new pieces of content designed to foster a responsive, ongoing relationship. Experimentation and novelty are the keys to success. Concepts are tested live. If they work they are developed, if they don’t they’re canned - that day.

Do you work in a company like that? Nope? Not many people do. But that’s what Direct Marketing could be.


Thanks Shaun

Tip No.35 - How To Do Radio
Tip No.34 - How To Do Press
Tip No.33 - How To Do TV
Tip No.32 - How To Do Digital
Tip No.31 - How To Do Posters
Tip No.30 - Look At Weird Shit
Tip No.29 - Presenting To The Client
Tip No.28 - Presenting To The Team
Tip No.27 - Presenting To The Creative Director
Tip No.26 - How To Deal With Rejection
Tip No.25 - Look Creative
Tip No.24 - Don't Be Afraid To Ask
Tip No.23 - Your Idea Has To Be 120%
Tip No.22 - Read Iain's Tips
Tip No.21 - Don't Behave
Tip No.20 - How To Discuss Ideas
Tip No.19 - Read Hugh's Tips
Tip No.18 - How To Get A Job In Advertising Part IV - How To Turn A Placement Into A Job
Tip No.17 - How To Get A Job In Advertising Part III - How To Approach Agencies (re-print of Tip No. 7)
Tip No.16 - How To Get A Job In Advertising Part II - How To Put A Book Together
Tip No. 15 - How To Get A Job In Advertising Part I - FAQ
Tip No. 14 - Make Friends With Traffic
Tip No. 13 - Get Reference
Tip No. 12 - Don't Stop Too Soon
Tip No.11 - Be Very
Tip No.10 - Breaking Up
Tip No.9 - Working Well With Your Partner
Tip No.8 - Finding The Right Partner
Tip No.7 - How To Approach Agencies
Tip No.6 - Never-Seen-Before Footage
Tip No.5 - Dicketts' Finger
Tip No.4 - Two Blokes In The Pub
Tip No.3 - Play Family Fortunes
Tip No.2 - Should You Take A Bad Job?
Tip No.1 - Don't Overpolish

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