By Frank J. Romano November 28, 2005 -- An ad agency lost a client to a printer. Oh my! Chris Meisner, president of a direct marketing agency, recently wrote in DM News that a strange thing happened to his agency--they lost a client. They did not lose the client to another agency; they lost the client to a printing company. How could a client choose a printer over a real ad agency? Chris considers his agency as quintessential with account services and creative people, and even a receptionist. His company provides clients with strategy, planning, management, and business-oriented services. How could a client choose a printer over a real ad agency? To some marketers, direct marketing is the same thing as direct mail, Internet, telemarketing, and database marketing--just a bunch of tactics. This could lead a client to think that direct marketing is only about printing and mailing, says Chris, and thus a mere printer might sound like a wise choice. The famous McCarthy marketing list includes various tactics: face-to-face sales, advertising, public relations, sales promotion, and direct marketing. What is direct marketing? The Direct Marketing Association defines anything that gets produced and sent directly to a consumer as direct marketing. DMA claims that about half of all media expenditures are direct marketing and that business is booming for this category. Another definition says that direct mail is a form of direct marketing conducted primarily in print and mainly delivered by the post office. What do advertising services really do in this new media world? What do advertising services really do in this new media world? They no longer just run ads and live off the commissions. Target and database marketing are finally being applied by advertising and PR professionals. Chris Meisner says that agencies still have a strategic approach that is more than the sum of their media. "We must shout loud and clear that if you just want your ad agency to put your advertising materials in the mail, you can go to a lettershop and do that, but that doesn't mean you're doing direct marketing. If you want a strategy that helps your business grow profitably, you need to go to a direct marketer. Otherwise, in the future, we may all lose our business to a printer. And then we won't be direct marketers anymore. We'll just be a bunch of service companies." If ad agencies can install a digital printer and mailing system, printers can hire talented and creative people. I hate to tell Chris this, but printers are more than printers today. There are advertising agencies that create and produce direct mail, and there are printers that create and produce direct mail. If ad agencies can install a digital printer and mailing system, printers can hire talented and creative people. Way back when, Ben Franklin helped his advertisers write their ads. That is how he created the need for printing. Most printers did not go that far; they just printed. But now printers are discovering that they must move higher and higher in the media food chain. Progressive printers do more than print and mail. They help clients with marketing and strategy. Chris Meisner's first book on direct marketing, "The Complete Guide to Direct Marketing: Creating Breakthrough Programs That Really Work!" will be published in 2006. Printers may find it useful.