10 Bizarre Questions or Comments from 35 years in Irish DM

David Letterman, the well known American talk show host, announced his retirement this month. David was well known for his “Top Ten “monologues most nights. The Top Ten things you don´t say to Idi Amin, or the Top 10 things  you don´t yell at Colin Montgomerie (you get the idea).

So in David´s honour I would like to list the top ten weirdest or funniest things I have encountered in 35+ years of Irish Direct Marketing.

  1. This one is famous and goes back to the UK in the seventies. A charity commissioned a DM piece to encourage cold donations. The letter was to be personalised and the final copy was approved by the client. An assistant copywriter was delegated to send the copy to the printer. Being  bored at only being an assistant he vented his spleen in odd ways and on this occasion began the salutation as “Dear Rich Bastard” and sent the copy along with the list of 70,000 recipients to the printer.Of course, all 70,000 received a letter beginning “Dear rich Bastard”The complaints they received were legion…but they also received 4 times more money than any of their previous mailings ever.

    I´m not sure what the moral is.

  2. The first year we were in business, 1992, I got a call from a client saying he needed a list of 5000 Architects. I researched it and called back informing him there were only 1500 Architects in practice in Ireland. He said that wasn´t good enough…he needed 5000.I said there were only 1500He repeated he needed 5000. So of course I asked him why. He said he had exclusive rights to a CAD software package that was the bee´s knees but was only useful to Architects. Being of sound mind I suggested he just mail the 1500. He restated he needed 5000…Why said I (again)

    Because his printer gave him a super price for printing 5000 very expensive brochures, which he now had.

    Didn´t you think of getting the market size first, said I?

    No said he, price was too good.

    Fine take the list of 1500, pay us a surcharge, and mail them 3 times.

    Guy thought I was a genius…This time I know the moral…look before you print!

  3. This is one we have all had but I got another just last month. Client starts off paying in advance then you give him 30 days credit. A year passes and he is badly abusing your generosity to the point of paying when he feels like it , or not at all (I know, hard to believe in Ireland). So your credit controller refuses his next order and you hear the following…”If you stop giving us credit you will be losing one of your best customers”.I still don´t know how to respond to that one.
  4. This is unique to list owners or brokers and maybe to a few clients. You do a mailing and a consumer rings you and asks “Where did you get my name from?”Fair question…“Yes sir, to help us find out from the source we need to know your name?”

    “I won´t tell you”

    “But if I don´t know your name I cannot remove it for future mailings”

    “That´s your problem but I don´t want any more mail!!!”

    Trust me, this happens at least once a year.

  5. This is a personal favourite, kind of unique to me. When I was the Secretary of the Irish Direct Marketing Association (based at my own office) a gentleman rang for an appointment. The appointment was made and said gentleman duly arrives in the offices of “The Bill Most Partnership” , who were the only real List Brokers in Ireland. Remember, he had a meeting with the IDMA but the sign clearly told him where he was.He then asks me ”I want to set up as a List Broker and want the IDMA to give me advice on how to do it, best practice, competition, etc.,?”OK, how do I handle that.I think I am very fair minded so first I tell him that it really isn´t the IDMA´s function to give courses on setting up your own business or doing Market Research on existing sectors.

    Then of course I sort of point to the sign and politely ask if he knows who I am and what I do?

    Penny drops..

    Gentleman leaves…and oddly he and I became friends.

    The moral?

    A couple of bucks spent on Market Research is usually money well spent.

  6. This is short and sweet .I never want to read another article on “How to set up your own in-house Marketing Database”It is important,  you should study and look before you leap, but there are a Gazillion articles on the internet…and they all say the same thing!Enough already…it´s like Self Help books..Dale Carnegie said all that needed saying back in 1928.
  7. Back to the list business. Sometime around the turn of the last century I rented a list of 11,000 businesses to the PA to the Marketing Director of one of Ireland´s largest Leisure groups.I get a call a few weeks later and she tells me she received 70 “Goneaways”.I beam with pride..

    0.6 of a percent is brilliant in our industry where some List companies have 5% or more as their norm.

    Not so fast Bill.

    She eats the face off me and says

    “Don´t you know so and so retired two months ago? Don´t you know so and so changed jobs this summer?”

    And “One of our envelopes was returned refused…they did not want to hear from this particular firm”

    I should know that of course. As we all know, you can´t please everyone but 0.6%…give me a break!

  8. This is a sad one. We sent out a business list of about 6,000 records to a client in Excel many years agoClient called me a month later a bit annoyed. Seems 50% of the mailing was retuned “not at this address”. Now it wasn´t my list, but NO list is that bad.I asked that they send in the file they had sent to their printer. A funny thing about excel in the ´90´s (or whatever package they were using). Apparently you could sort records by a single column and only that column sorted.

    Someone sorted by Address line 1 and that was the only field that changed.

    Thank God for the Irish postal system. Half of our addresses are Townlands or “Dublin Road” or “Main Street” so half of them got through…I think we get the moral here.

  9. Similar to above and to number one but I think I had something to do with this when I worked for a corporation before going it alone…and now I know why I left. The company had a weird way of capturing and providing contact names…they just had 2 Fields, Forename and Surname as in “Bill” and “Moss”.Foxford Woolen Mills in Mayo at that time had a Finance Director who was Sister Francis.So that is how we provided the name to the company doing the mailing…no Prefix, no JobTitle…no Salutation…just Sister Francis.

    Now Sister Francis through the courtesy of some 1980´s data processing house (remember in those days women did not run businesses so the default was always “Mr”) received a letter addressed to

    “Dear Mr Sister”.

    I don´t know why I like that…I just do.

  10. And finally this one has nothing to do with DM but is my personal “ What was Bill thinking” story.I just resigned after 10 or so years from the ASAI Complaints Committee, one of the best experiences I have had in Ireland. Terrific people, all volunteers, and generally pretty senior in their individual fields.A couple of years ago we had a new member at her first meeting…a very senior person in the Academic world..

    Her good luck she got sat next to me.

    As everyone who knows me is aware, I am not much use with mobile phones. Don´t turn them off too often, and sometimes even have trouble answering them.

    I am, however, a huge Jeff Dunham fan (look this guy up on youtube and view Achmed..really funny)..My mobile ring tone reflects this.

    These meetings are informal but very dignified and business like with some seriously good people who are well used to me.

    20 minutes in to the meeting…a voice is heard saying “Silence, I kill you..SILENCE I KILL YOU.”

    12 heads of course turn to me (they know the culprit without a doubt).

    I got one hand in my pocket and miraculously manage to turn the thing off and turn to my new colleague and say “don´t worry it was a terrorist, but it´s sorted”

    I will say one more thing..Ireland is maybe the only country on Earth where we can genuinely laugh at this stuff