06 . 11 . 18

A cure for the digital hangover

Words by: Mark Davies
Research points to a new wave of interest in door drops, inspired by the broken promises of digital and a growing emphasis on marketing effectiveness
mark davies_hi res.jpg

The power of print at a glance:

  • The failed promises of digital mean that traditional marketing channels like door drops are growing in popularity
  • New measurement tools like JICMail are helping mend the reputational issues associated with traditional media
  • Door drops may not match the visual flair of a TV spot or banner ad, but advertisers must understand that creative cost-effectiveness matters most

From transparency and poor performance, to lack of viewability and ad fraud, cracks in the shiny digital veneer are beginning to show. And in this context, traditional marketing channels like door drop are growing in popularity.

GDPR has certainly played a role, as regulatory changes go some way towards establishing a level playing field for acquisition channels. But the interest we’ve witnessed so far isn’t yet about regulation – that will come later in the year. No, this is about performance.  

The walled gardens of Google and Facebook tell you only about the online journey and not what came first. Insights from the likes of JICMail on the interactions between consumers and door drops suggest that money has been overspent and the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of digital.

Results from ALF Insight for the first quarter of 2018 show that advertising spend on door drops has risen, while advertising spend on digital has gone down. It’s up to us to wake advertisers from the post-digital hangover and prove to them that some of the money has gone to the wrong places, while the channels they’ve neglected have got better at driving a response.

Perception vs reality

When I look at the media hierarchies of my clients, in terms of what’s driving a response, door drop isn’t always the top performer, but it’s usually top table.

The aim for us door-drop evangelists then is to up our game, certainly on targeting but also on measurement. To get that proof of concept to say that if we do X in Y area, then we can expect online traffic and sales to rise Z%. That, I think, has been a real step change in bringing evaluation and attribution into the door-drop conversation.

In terms of its reach, it’s unbeatable. We’re in more homes than any other marketing channel, including the internet. And in fact, what we’re realising is that the ‘sweet spot’ for us is the intersection between ROI and reach. We can deliver good performance, if not the best performance, at a compelling cost per acquisition across the country.

Digital display advertising, by contrast, is usually at the bottom of the pile, both in terms of scale and effectiveness. And yet today £3bn is still spent on digital display and only £2bn on mail and door drops.

Creative cost-effectiveness

This is a channel that has been relatively sidelined, maybe even sent to the gulag of media for the last 10 years. And that extends to the creative space.

And actually, door drop is the most democratic media channel out there. Because we can reach virtually every person in virtually every home in the country
Mark Davies
MD, Whistl

Door drops are pragmatic. In comparison to most print media, it’s a very a low-cost media, and the cost per pack is an important part of making it work. That doesn’t mean you do it on the cheap, but it does mean you have to make your creative cost-effective. And that’s fine, because a door drop only really has to start the conversation. It has to tell you in two seconds flat who it’s from and what’s in it for the consumer.

There are some interesting things coming from those who have used door drop over the long term, many of whom have a real eye for the medium. For example Specsavers, which is using above-the-line integrations really well, taking some of its TV advertising themes and bringing them into mini brochures and catalogues. It may not be stunning creative, but actually, every element of that piece has been optimised.

Loyalists and converts

What we’re finding, particularly among those who have lapsed and returned to us after many years, is that the channel has really changed, particularly on the marketing and measurement front.

Some may see door drops as the dirty end of media, suited mostly to discounters. But the data, the targeting, the attribution says otherwise. And actually, door drop is the most democratic media channel out there. Because we can reach virtually every person in virtually every home in the country.

From luxury pieces for The White Company to weekly offers for Lidl, the only requirement is that the creative reflects your brand and the target market you’re trying to engage with. There’s no point P&O Cruises flogging a £3,000 package with thin-grade paper more befitting of a tabloid. But a discounter may deliberately use lower-cost paper to communicate the effectiveness of its buying power.

Pure play digital brands like are also beginning to use door drops to talk to their customers and prospects, harnessing new data sets in their targeting like broadband speed, which is often a simple matter of geography, to find households with the greatest propensity to shop online.

Let’s hope more advertisers wake up.