An Interview with Dave Taylor, Strategy Magazine February 19, 1992

Dave Taylor’s name has become synonymous with the evolution of the Canadian Direct Marketing industry and its importance as a channel of sale in Canada.  This week Dave Taylor and I had a chat about his experience, challenges and what makes him laugh:

Charles: Good Morning Dave.  How was your trip into town today?

Dave: The good news is I got here. The traffic was worse than ever.

Charles: I think you have a couple of anniversaries coming up. Can you tell me about them?

Dave: Are you the pre marketing launch?  I’ve been working in the direct marketing industry for about 35 years and a lot has changed in that short period of time. Toronto has grown up.  Direct marketing has moved into the #2 spot behind brand marketing and, I think, we are building up a strong talent pool in the Toronto marketing.  Oh right…the anniversaries.  I have another birthday. I’ve heard the word ‘milestone’ applied to the event.  I just seem to be older than everyone else now.

Charles: So how’s business?

Dave: Better than ever!

Charles: Are you still a copy writer at heart?  Where’s your focus today?

Dave: I think I’ve always had a flair for a great idea and copy writing is just one of the expressions.   I’ve evolved along with the business and where I’ve developed strength is in building out ideas into direct marketing plans across the customer lifecycle.  I can put a creative concept into context, I believe, more effectively than most of my peers.

Charles: You mentioned peers. Who are they?

Dave: That’s a loaded question…Tony Keenan is one of those people at the top of my list.  I have great respect for what he had accomplished on the business side and with, essentially, the relaunch of the Regal Greetings and Gifts Business. He’s assembled a remarkable team with Barbara Canning Brown leading the marketing efforts. They are all doing a great job.

Mona Goldstein is another leader in our business. She has, in many respects, pioneered the direct marketing disciplines in the agency world here in Toronto.  It’s been a tough battle in  some ways and direct marketing continues to fight for respect.

There are host of people who are not direct marketers of the year like my friends Steven Shaw, Bob Stacey, and Rich Bassett each of whom in their way has made an imprint on our business.  Frankly, it’s the low profile individuals like Steve who, by working consistently for a better industry who are really making a difference.  The groundwork he laid in the 70s continues to impact our business 20 years later.

Charles:  You forgot the plug for Salter, de Gruchy?

Dave: No I didn’t. I just talked about Steven.

Charles: Right!

Dave: Right!

Charles: So you think ‘direct marketing’ now has acceptance?

Dave: We are getting there. We have all worked hard since the 70s to get the direct marketing medium embraced by mainstream marketers.  Our conversations back then were all bout finding ways to gain recognition and to grow acceptance.  I think we’ve built a strong foundation but the current generation of direct marketers will really show its value.

Charles: I think we all recognize you as the great mentor of the DM business. What are your thoughts on what we think we see?

Dave:  That’s good to hear. And, I won’t get a swelled head.  I’ve always believed in the value and importance of a conversation.  In my view there is always a story to illustrate a point and that not much as really changed over the years.  Something that happened 10 years ago is, most often, still relevant today and can be applied to a business challenge.

We’ve all seen the failures and successes.  I strongly believe their value is in understanding why they are what they are.  So much of what I pass on to clients are the little nuggets that I’ve picked up from my direct experience building and launching programs.

Charles: What kind of direct marketer are you then?

I think I belong to a small group of hybrids. You know, those creative direct marketers whose strategic marketing is melded with copywriting and creative capabilities. The challenges of running a successful DM campaign today demand that mix of skills. Strong creative is important but so is an ability to tie the campaign in to corporate objectives and deliver a clear demonstration of the impact.

Success is a lot more than creating excitement.  We have to deliver solid value and that usually means sales.

Charles: Somebody once told me that you have an amazing sense for what will work and that you can “write exceptional copy on the back of a cocktail napkin.”  From what I understand you have a sense of clarity that has always allowed you to see what is missing or what is confusing or what needs to be changed and how.”

Dave: I think of myself as an all-rounder. I’m strategic first, then creative and finally work through the implementation details to make sure the go to market story will meet objectives.  And, of course, embedded in all of this is test, test, test.  I am a strong advocate of the importance of measurement.  I love being able to create a program and then sit back and count the money coming in.  Testing was and is one of the most exciting parts of this business!

Charles: So was your direct marketing career a plan or an accident?

Dave: To be honest I fell into direct marketing.  After I took a job as circulation manager I found out I would be writing copy.  There were few, if any, agencies to speak of in the direct marketing business. I had to figure it out for myself.  I learned how to be a copywriter at Maclean Hunter’, and made every mistake a direct marketing copywriter could make. I authored ads with no return address.  How much better than that can you get?

Charles: So let’s have a final word on the business

Dave: I think the single biggest factor that determines success or failure in a campaign is the offer.  You can have the most brilliant creative, the greatest words, the nicest design, but without a decent offer it just won’t work.

Pairing a great offer with a campaign that’s informed and in touch with its customers is an ideal match. But other factors are also important, he continues.

I also think a willingness to test, having an open mind and not being committed to always doing things in the future the way you’ve done them in the past – those are also essential elements of a successful campaign.”

Charles: Dave, thank-you very much for taking the time to talk.  All my best and I’ll see you next week. Oh, Dave I forgot my last question — what makes you laugh?

Dave: Life

.Charles: Thank you Dave



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