Directory Ten Years On
An Oral History
Issue 40 | September 2016
Blimey! Was it really ten years ago Directory Issue One flew off the presses and out into agencies around the world?
Yup. Another 38 issues followed it and here we are at number 40.
To mark the occasion, the original team of Georgia Malden (Publisher), Jamie Madge (Editor) and Patrick Collister (Consultant) got together to rake through the memories.
Whose idea was it anyway?
Georgia – I was working as Strategy and Development Director at Xtreme Information at the time and it was clear that our clients were keen to know more about campaigns that existed outside of the traditional categories of TV, print and poster. We had had a lot of success with The Reel, a curated showcase of great TV spots and we thought we could apply the same thinking to the world of direct marketing.
The first thing we needed to do was speak to an expert, someone who would be able to (a) tell us if this idea would resonate with the industry and (b) recognize the quality of the work we were hoping to cover.
We knew of Patrick (frankly, who didn’t?) and, thankfully, he said yes to helping us get the thing off the ground.
Jamie – I was Editor of The Reel at the time so my focus was entirely lm. However, I did know a thing or two about dealing with campaign submissions and putting together a compilation of the best work out there, so I was happy to join the gang.
Patrick – The original idea wasn’t for a magazine but for a box. Every quarter, subscribers would get a box lled with the best direct mail we could nd.
I had to tell the bigwigs at Xtreme that I didn’t think this would work. Partly because each bit of DM needed explanation – target audience, objectives, the problem defined, the creative solution and the results – and partly because there wouldn’t be enough of it. Direct marketing covered a wider range of activities than just stuff in envelopes.
Georgia – We knew we were going to need help getting a foothold in the market so we approached the DMA. They had great inroads into the agencies we wanted to talk to and, happily, were enthusiastic about the project. It tted with their aim to raise the pro le of the direct industry.
We were also incredibly lucky to snag Royal Mail as lead sponsor as without the eight of a big organisation like that it would have been dif cult to get Directory to y. Not that it was called that then.
Jamie – Yes, Royal Mail were keen to change perceptions of direct mail from ‘junk mail’ to a medium of real value to clients in the marketing mix.
Patrick – Royal Mail maintained their sponsorship until 2014 and were fabulous partners. We were so lucky to work with Angus Morrison, Sarah McKee, Danielle Homan and the marvellous Tim Hamill.
As well as providing them with large numbers of the magazines, we also put on events, organised training, created displays for the new MarketReach premises in Stukeley Street. Happy times!
Georgia – Having decided it was going to be a magazine, the next step was to ll it with work. Given this was about honouring creativity in direct, who better to ask to create a call for entries campaign than the agencies themselves?
We ran a competition (of course!) and the winners were Kate Pybus and Matt Page from EHS Brann. They brought energy and enthusiasm as well as some great ideas about how we could make this new showcase a benchmark for the kind of work the whole industry should be aspiring to.
Jamie – We started getting submissions as soon as the call for entries was sent out. Although we were happy to accept digital files with images, case-study videos and the like, we were still trying to get our mitts on tangible assets if possible. I don’t think we were quite expecting the volume of crazy packages to be quite so huge. Our postman really did earn his pay that month.
I can remember the first time we set up the boardroom at Xtreme for our curation session (basically two days of non-stop handling the material and discussing it). We’d laid out all the swag on the boardroom table and it was then that the scale of the undertaking hit home. I for one was intimidated by the idea of having to pass judgement on all that work. From The Reel I’d developed a nose for what did and didn’t work in advertising but what I lacked was hands- on experience as a creative.
Georgia – So we left all that up to Patrick.
Jamie – Actually, what was clear from the start was that Patrick didn’t see this as him as the judge and us as the note-takers. It was collaborative from the very start.
Georgia – I can now sympathise with the jurors at Cannes. Giving every campaign a thorough chance to impress by making sure you understand every aspect of it before making a judgement is really draining. But Patrick was fundamental in inspiring us all to look deeper and take more care. By the end of our time with Directory, we really did know how good direct marketing works.
Jamie – What I found hard was the diversity of the submissions. On The Reel, which was all television ads, I was comparing apples with apples but here we were being confronted by every imaginable form of response-provoking communication. Every quarter we had a real smorgasbord of creative knick-knacks.
Georgia – Somewhere at home I still have a box of branded Fuzzy felt.
Jamie – It was great, though. We laughed a lot.
Georgia – Once we’d selected the work, we had to gure out how to show it off to its best advantage. We had the challenge, solution, results template that most awards shows use but we needed to let the images dominate the pages so our readers would get a good sense of the details.
Our designer, Sasha Vidakovic, did a fantastic job, giving each spread the same kind of love and attention to detail we had given in the selection process.
Jamie – I remember it was a real challenge to get usable assets. “Do you have a 300dpi version ?” kinda became my crap catchphrase for a few weeks.
Georgia – Putting the magazine together took a lot longer than we’d anticipated.
Jamie – Just putting together the Directory ‘Directory’, the list of all the featured companies’ contact details, may have helped the publication’s relevance but not our stress levels!
Patrick – Talking of stress levels, we’d decided to call the magazine ‘Benchmark’. And two weeks before going to press we discovered that someone else had registered the name, even though they hadn’t used it.
It was Duncan Gray, then worldwide Creative Director at Proximity, who said “Call it Directory. It’s what it is, after all.”
So we did.
Only later did we realise that it is a name with massive problems in the digital world. If you search Directory, you probably nd us on page 950!
Georgia – As soon as Issue One had gone out we were trying to improve it. That’s when the idea of Editor’s Notes popped up.
Patrick – And it’s those ‘Our Thoughts’ notes which many of our subscribers like most. We’re never bitchy. Always looking to provide an insight about the idea or the strategy and to give proper appreciation to the creative teams.
Jamie – early on we wanted to get guest editors involved, people who could bring their own perspective. One of the first guest editors was Steve Harrison. Working with him was an absolute joy! Listening to him and Patrick discussing the work was like being in an intense, private ad school. I learnt so much.
Georgia – The interplay between them was wonderful to watch. We'd become better at knowing what we needed for the issue to work too so those sessions were very productive
Jamie – I'd say that, without a doubt, working on Directory made me better at my job. I learnt the importance of seemingly tiny details. And I learned to spot the essential 'truths' all great advertising has, irrespective of its form or age. I apply that thinking to everything I look at in my job as worldwide editor at Source Creative.
Georgia – I hadn't appreciated quite how much legwork is involved in making a magazine like this. And I mean legwork literally! Trudging the streets of Cannes, delivering hand-written postcards of congratulations to all the winners, requesting submissions for our first issue and getting the name on everyone's radar.
Being that direct is hard work.
Jamie – We learned the importance of a good submission. The difference in quality of the entries was remarkable. Sometimes the details that were fundamental to the success of the campaign were buried beneath a ton of irrelevance.
Georgia – I remember Steve mentioning that one of the reasons so much of his work won awards was down to the submissions. He did them himself so he knew what to highlight.
Patrick – He can also write with clarity and purpose.
Georgia – Agencies who give their awards submissions over to an intern or a PA are wasting so much money. Steve taught us a heck of a lot and to this day I still regret not joining one of his Argentinian tango classes.
Jamie – That being said (about submissions, not the tango bit) Patrick insisted we persevere with every submission and we did find some hidden gems. I think working with Patrick was a real gift to me at the time.
Patrick – Aw, shucks.
Jamie – I was 25, I'd just taken on the editorship of The Reel and was spending each day wondering if I was up to the task. Being in a room with one of the most respected figures in adland and being treated as an equal was a great boost to my confidence both personally and in my career. I learned to have faith in my opinion and to have the conviction to express it. It was an amazing experience.
Patrick – There wasn't any of the buzz about start-ups then that there is now but that's what we were, a start-up. The extraordinary John Gordon, CEO of Xtreme, threw us into a room together and told us to get on with it. So we did. You can't pull rank when there are only three of you. And besides, we all knew that Georgia was in charge. It's still a sadness that Jamie and Georgia moved on to other things. What happened was Xtreme Information was acquired by Ebiquity. Rather than watch Directory go into liquidation, which looked distinctly possible, John Gordon offered the magazine to me at very generous terms.
Georgia – I think the fact we're writing this for the 10th anniversary of the publication says we created something that people needed. Of course, it looks very different now. Indeed, its journey from 'Direct marketing Showcase' to 'Innovations in Communications' pretty much sums up what the industry has been going through over the past decade. And what an exciting ride it's been
Patrick – It certainly has been quite a ride. Losing Royal Mail as sponsors was a bit tricky but we have been able to do bits and pieces for Belgian Post and Danish Post, for instance, and we've managed to hold it together. We have tried to bring our other little business, The Big Won, under the Directory banner. And we are thinking of the sort of changes we need to make to remain both relevant and useful to our readers.
And that's as good a place to sign off as any, with a few heartfelt thank yous: To to our subscribers, a few of whom have been with us for all 40 issues. And who, I hope, will stay with us for the next 40.
To Jamie and Georgia for helping get Directory started.
To Julie and Dorte who keep it going.