When the Internet finally evolved into a medium in the late ‘90s, New York direct marketer Wunderman quickly understood the vast direct marketing potential that online could add to the advertising and marketing mix. In fact, the Internet, with its one-to-one marketing ability, was the perfect platform for an agency whose founder and chairman emeritus is Lester Wunderman, widely considered the father of direct marketing.
Wunderman, founded as Wunderman Ricotta and Kline in 1958, became Wunderman Cato Johnson in 1992, then Impiric in 2000, and switched to its current name in 2001. Today Wunderman is the world’s largest direct-to-consumer marketing company, with more than $3.2 billion in billings and 4,000 people working in 74 offices in 34 countries. Its online division, Wunderman Interactive, is formidable as well, with 2001 online media billings of $40 million, enough to place Wunderman Interactive 19th in MEDIA Magazine’s ranking of the top 50 interactive agencies. Online clients include AT&T, AICPA, IBM, Register.com, Citibank, Ford, 1-800-Flowers.com, Sears, and TGI.com.
“Our approach has always been one of holistic direct marketing,” said Sheri Rothblatt, SVP co-media director of Wunderman. “Online is one channel in the marketing mix. When online fits, it makes the plan.” Rothblatt has been playing a leading role at Wunderman since 1994. Her 18 years in direct marketing began at FCB/Direct and include stints at Barry Blau and Partners and Grey Direct.
“We look at online for what it can do in driving client business goals,” agreed Gary Kagawa, SVP co-media director of Wunderman. “We believe in channel-agnostic marketing solutions.” Kagawa began his career at Young & Rubicam in general advertising 20 years ago, then moved to Ogilvy & Mather Direct before coming to Wunderman in 1994.
One needs to understand Wunderman’s entire planning process to better appreciate its approach to using online. “We begin every campaign with our insights and strategy team,” says Phil Sandler, VP, director interactive strategy. “The purpose is to dig into the mindset of the target. Find out what the brand has to do to reach the consumer or prospect. We identify three core elements in selecting a communication channel—behavior, relevancy, and choice. If online advertising or marketing as a channel meets the consumer’s needs in these three criteria, then we consider it for the plan.” Sandler is a 12-year veteran of direct and interactive marketing, the last four focused full-time on interactive. He joined Wunderman in 2000; prior to that, he worked extensively on high-tech clients such as IBM at OgilvyOne and Compaq at Tribal DDB.
“In the end we create branded acquisition campaigns,” says Rothblatt. “Although each message is trying to generate a response, we also realize that the message is having a branding impact as well. We must have brand consistency in everything we do.” What helps meld the branding and direct response elements is that the staff is schooled in both disciplines. “We take a direct marketing approach with a different angle,” said Kagawa. “I came from a branding background and learned direct marketing, and Sheri came from direct marketing background and learned branding.”
When Wunderman needs to add online marketing to a plan, its direct marketing heritage certainly comes into play. “With direct marketing, the three most important points are list, offer, and creative. This applies directly to online as well,” said Sandler. “In both areas, we have to use common sense on how people want to be treated. People have short attention spans, so value their time. Be respectful of consumers and value their privacy.” Sandler continued, “The thing online and direct marketing have most in common is the need to continually test everything. The web provides mountains and mountains of data a second. Firms that can find the nugget in the data will be most successful.”
Despite the similarities, Sandler sees one big difference. “Online has so many more variables than direct mail. [With direct mail] for the most part, there is the physical letter and envelope and of course the list. In online, just using the banner for example, you have to consider the site, where people came from, what else is on the page, placement on page, use of rich media and so on,” he said.
Wunderman provides a wide array of e-marketing services to help almost any company, including marketing intelligence; offer development; Internet guerrilla marketing tactics; online promotions and events; data analytics and reporting; media planning, buying, testing and optimization; creative development; ad serving and email transmission; and on- and offline channel integration.
A good example of how Wunderman applies its online services is the media solution it developed for Register.com. Wunderman was asked to analyze the cost of acquisition used by Register.com in order to improve its ROI. Wunderman determined that in order to meet sales goals of generating new domain name registrations at $35 per URL, they would need to increase efficiency 71 percent over previous interactive efforts.
Targeting individual consumers and small business owners, Wunderman developed a media strategy that took advantage of high volume, low-cost placement, including 33 search engines, ad networks, and vertical, guerrilla, and electronic-wallet sites. It implemented a sophisticated tracking system to monitor 28 important variables including impressions and clicks, site actions such as view-through, profit and revenue data by product and in aggregate, and purchase conversions paths.
After six months of banners, buttons, text links, and emails, plus offline media of direct mail pieces, radio, TV, and collateral pieces, the campaign actually decreased the cost per registration by over 85 percent. Additionally, they improved conversation metrics by finding the “holes in the registration process.”