Lurrie Casts Direct as ‘Nerds’ Revenge’

NEW YORK The emergence of direct marketing as a pre-eminent advertising discipline in recent years has made its practitioners feel as if they’ve finally arrived professionally.

“We call it ‘Revenge of the Nerds,'” said Wendy Lurrie, general manager of Interpublic Group’s DraftFCB in New York. “Our time has come.”

Lurrie made the remark during her appearance on a panel at the McGraw-Hill building this morning that focused on marketing integration in a multichannel media landscape. The event was presented by the Direct Marketing Association in New York as part of Advertising Week.

In outlining some of the changes and challenges of direct marketing, Lurrie talked about the shifts in media consumption that force marketers to plan beyond customer segments.

Because of digital media tools that enable marketers to more effectively gather information about individual consumers, relationship marketing is now about “a category of one,” she said.

She talked about how the rise of online communities has impacted direct marketing because their existence “changes the nature and dynamics of influence” and increases marketers’ needs for new metrics that demonstrate return on investment.

“Human nature never changes,” Lurrie said. “But human behavior does.”

As sophisticated as it has become, there is still a lot of work to do in refining direct marketing tools, the panelists said.

Peter Gerber, who was a director of General Motors’ global corporate brand strategy and is now manager of corporate branding at Eaton Corp., was also on the panel. Bob Wagner, vp of the Xerox creative services business segment, and Fred Rubin, director of IPG’s iDeutsch and directDeutsch in New York, joined Gerber. Richard Rosen, president and CEO of AlloyRed, was the moderator.

Building on points Rosen made to the audience about branding, Gerber likened relationship marketing to that of a courtship that leads to marriage.

Under the “old” branding model, marketers wanted agencies to build awareness about a brand, then create a preference for it among consumers who would buy it.

In relationship marketing, awareness is followed by engagement, interaction with the brand either through the Web, in-store tactics or events, consideration of a brand and its attributes, and then a possible sale, Rosen said.

For such a model to be successful, there must be relationship building through permission on the part of the consumer, information sharing and the dialogue that leads to the metaphorical marketing question: “Will you marry me?” Gerber explained.

“The purchase cycle has changed,” Lurrie added. “Awareness is less and less the game.” The “game” now is in getting consumers’ consideration about the brand, and “that takes different tools,” she said.

Rubin concurred, saying that before the rise of blogs, word-of-mouth brand building was a tool that had eluded marketers. And while even those tools can be better refined to a marketer’s advantage, it still allows you to “really walk the talk of a brand,” he said.

As a result, brands are no longer being built from the top down, according to Lurrie, but from the bottom up through peer interaction in online communities and experience with a product.

Wagner, for his part, championed TV as a complement to direct marketing. He cited examples of Xerox spots that talked about specific services such as self-publishing that created more of a consumer demand for more information than Xerox expected and was equipped to deliver. As a result, the company had to scramble to “retrofit” pools of information to which it could send curious customers.

“I don’t think one of the disciplines has to go away in favor of the other,” Wagner said of TV and direct response. “They have to be used together.”