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Direct marketing has long been seen as one of the bottom rungs on the marketing ladder. Coupon systems, junk mail piling up on the customer's doormat, and mail order catalogues that are never used have given the industry a bad name. But the reality is that direct marketing is popular because it works. New technologies such as email lists and sms messaging have opened up whole new markets of targeted customers and the future of the sector seems brighter than ever.

Direct marketing now encompasses everything from door drops to press coupons, mail order retailing, e-marketing and mailing lists. The industry has performed impressively in the last decade prompting advertisers to treble their spending on direct mail alone. The financial services sector, the travel industry, the home shopping sector and charities are increasingly relying on direct marketing as the powerhouse behind their marketing initiatives.

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As traditional mass-marketing media fragment and customers become more media savvy, the conventional advertising sectors are suffering and direct marketing is picking up where they can no longer deliver. Television and print commercials are simply losing their effectiveness as consumers come to expect a more personalized approach to advertising and demand a stronger relationship with a brand.

At the same time returns on direct marketing investment are improving and the direct marketing industry has been gaining status and recognition among non-traditional users. Marketing executives are now reconsidering their advertising spend, making direct marketing the next obvious choice.

Direct marketing's accountability is one of its main selling points. Advertisers want to measure results, particularly when times are hard, and with a direct response campaign it's easy to track results - and consumers. The simple sales promotions and coupon structures of the past still exist, but increasingly sophisticated campaigns and crafty initiatives to reach a targeted audience are on the increase. Sales clubs, loyalty cards, care lines and cross media campaigns that link direct mailings with Internet shopping are proving highly successful.

Industry monitors expect spending in the direct marketing sector to increase by over 15 per cent annually, suggesting that those in control of the marketing budget are aiming to divert significant funds from traditional, above-the-line, advertising techniques to non-traditional direct marketing campaigns in an attempt to net new customers and create and maintain brand loyalty across the board.