James Quilter - Reporter, Precision Marketing

27.01.05

First thing to do is meet Vizium, a media buying agency, at 10am in
Covent Garden. It’s a bit of an early start as yesterday was press day
and we usually have a 10.30 kick-off to make up for the mayhem and
occasional story gathering the day before.

In case you haven’t worked it out from the title, Precision
Marketing is devoted to all things connected with direct marketing –
what the less-initiated know as junk mail.

The conversation is
centred on technology’s increasing role in the medium, with “red
button” interactive TV ads, SMS, email and other digital formats.

Also,
typically, the role of clients in holding back stories, even when they
are relatively helpful, comes up. Grolsch has just given them approval
to put a press release out about a recent red button TV ad, which was
only too successful.

It offered free pint glasses to anyone who
gave them their names and addresses and they were surprised when they
had to pull it three days and 30,000-odd beer goblets later. Funny
that…

The rest of the day is spent clearing the dead from the
day before and working out the news analysis with the rest of the
editorial team.

I also meet a press contact at a direct marketing
agency I’ve just been assigned to cover for lunch down the road in Soho
and find myself in an odd situation.

In a previous life I used to
work in the direct marketing industry and spent a short time working
for them. So when she admitted they didn’t always keep her in the loop
I found myself telling her about an internal report she needed to get
access to.

28.01.05

Although news is always in the background, today is more about
chores and today this means List File, not the most challenging job in
the world.

List File – or “Listies” as it is affectionately known – is basically an update on data files that have come on the market.

For example, the Traditional Garden and Country Home mail order catalogue is selling its buyers’ list of 280,000 people.

So
if you want to send some people direct mail about peat and trowels, you
can buy the names and addresses of 1000 gardeners for £120.

Once
that is done I get a call that Anne Petrie, one of the other reporters,
is off sick so I pick up some of her work. This is the international
column of the magazine and so I find myself working on a story about
how the US Direct Marketing Association is coming under pressure from
its members to get to grips with privacy legislation, which is
beginning to stifle the industry.

The rest of the day is spent
introducing myself to new contacts and banter with the rest of the team
– usually about football, which drives the girls mad. Recently there
have been a couple of moves on the magazine, so as a result I have
picked up some new agencies and sectors.

31.01.05

It’s Monday now and events start to become more news focused. The
first thing to do is ring around the agencies and get the same old
story i.e. “Yes, we’ve got a big story, but no we can’t speak about it,
no not even off the record.”

But I do manage to file a story I’ve had on the go for a while;
Asda, which rarely uses direct marketing, is putting together a
campaign to support its wine range.

Besides the usual press
release stuff, I set up an interview with Mike Tildesley, the marketing
director of insurance company MoreThan, who has been appointed chairman
of the Financial Services Forum, which represents senior management in
the sector. At the moment there are signs financial marketers are
facing problems with increasing government legislation, so this is an
opportunity to question him.

In addition, I also put my hand up
to write the diary page, an irreverent look at the industry written
under a pseudonym – thank god – and spend the time between everything
else wondering what I’m going to write about.

01.02.05

In early to interview Mike Tildesley, who surprisingly praised the
financial regulators. Shortly afterwards, I write up a story about a
new AXA Sun Life commercial. It features the lovely Carole Smilie
standing in a kitchen so awful it must have been decorated by her
Changing Rooms pals. The ad is also the first to appear for the company
since it was fined £500,000 by the Financial Services Authority for
various legal misdemeanours in its previous TV commercials.

The rest of the day is spent chasing up possible stories. One is on
a car manufacturer reviewing its direct marketing agency list and the
other on Boots changing its loyalty card strategy. Also I finally come
up with an idea for the diary column – having a rip at trendy agencies
– not the most original thing and to be honest reads more like a
deranged rant than something amusing. I’ll sleep on it.

02.02.05

It is 8.30 and I’m trying to rewrite that diary column so it’s out
of the way before the serious fun begins. Today is generally a 9am
start, though the other guys are also in early, putting up the
metaphorical sandbags and checking none of our stories we have planned
have been poached by our sister magazine Marketing Week, which is out
this morning.

It is 10am and, after rewriting the diary for the umpteenth time,
I’m still not happy and decide to cut my losses and hand it over. The
news editor reads it with raised eyebrow: “It’s fine – obviously it’s
something you care about.” Yes, it’s a still a rant and the only thing
that’s changed since yesterday is the stack of stories I have to write
up.

We’re ahead of schedule and the front page, after a worrying
start, is starting to look quite good. The car story doesn’t quite come
off but I get confirmation on the Boots story and am able to run with
it. It’s the last story in and we proof the final page at 6pm. A couple
of amends here and there and that’s it, another issue out of the door.

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