Australian Database Marketing Magazine 20 year anniversary

It was 1994. A wonderful time to be working in marketing.

Data was rapidly becoming a key part of marketing activity. All the major categories including packaged goods, financial services, tourism, business equipment, technology, telecommunications, automotive and more, were into data-driven marketing. Even though it was just called ordinary customer data, many now regard that time as the dawn of what is now called BIG DATA.

The internet was upon us and loyalty clubs were popping up everywhere, as marketers used multiple contact points to gather data from customer behaviour. Even publishers were experimenting with customised printing. They created content tailored for different segments of subscribers, so the publications were more relevant to their readers. In a farm magazine for example, there would be common content for all subscribers, but a pig farmer would get specific content related to pig farming, while a wheat farmer would get more content related to wheat farming and so on.

Data was the new black

Data was so fashionable I was already running my second data consultancy as part of my agency, MAD. I opened the first in 1988 for Ogilvy & Mather Direct, called DataConsult.

In the midst of this, two Englishmen set out to publish a new magazine for the Australian marketing industry – Database Marketing. As anyone who knows the marketing trade magazine industry, it’s damn difficult to get marketing services suppliers to advertise in trade press. The marketing industry prefers to use direct marketing methods to get new business. And just like the popular newsprint industry, the cash cow in the trade press is the classified ads.

The magazine struggled to make money. I was keen to have an industry publication focusing on direct marketing, so I invested in the publication to help keep it afloat. I paid for all the artwork design, production and scans. I kept my involvement anonymous, so as not to deter my agency competitors from contributing content.

Database Marketing lasted a couple years before collapsing. When things got tough the other two shot through and I was left holding the can and a large debt that had to be paid off – karma will get the other two eventually.

Magazine cover June
The inaugural issue – data is the new black

But given all the fuss around BIG DATA I thought I’d do some retro posts from original issues of the magazine.

The first issue in June 1994, featured a dodgy photo of me on the cover – see above. There was a FREE CD-ROM Offer too – how hi-tech!

Along with a few others, I was interviewed about the future of marketing, which is always easy to pontificate about, as anyone can make predictions. Now we’re 20 years down the track it will be curious to see how accurate the predictions were, given the internet hadn’t even entered the vernacular at the time of the article.

Of interest was my comment on the automotive industry, where I explained how they were becoming publishers of magazines, audio tapes, CDs and other media, rather than relying on mass media to make sales. At least I got lucky with that prediction – now every brand is a content publisher.

In my enthusiasm for major brands becoming involved in using data, I suggested that advertising ideas were more important than offers. In hindsight, what I was trying to say was that offers needed to be communicated more creatively, in the way Bill Jayme was creating them at the time. You will rarely get people to react to a brand proposition in the same way you will to an offer, but that’s another blog.

I’ve scanned the article – you can download the PDF here.

My good friend Drayton Bird also made some insightful predictions – click here to read them. Next to his article, you’ll notice the ad for the Pan Pacific conference, now the ADMA Forum. It was 4-day event back then (only 2 days now), including a day dedicated to the new electronic superhighway. I’ll bet none of the speakers were even close to predicting the implications of the internet. But hey, nobody had a clue about the pending technology advances.

There was also a column called Live & Direct with 10 Megatrend Predictions. Hindsight is not kind to them as they are quite lame 20 years on.

Rob Edwards, the CEO of ADMA asked a very pertinent question – “Can the database industry control itself?

Mick Reid of Salmat argued that marketers should “break the mass media habit.” You’ll notice an ad with the headline “ONE thousand contacts in ONE hour with just ONE call!” It’s for that amazing technological service – the fax machine. One thousand in an hour. Now it’s 100,000 in a minute with email. Who’d have thought how quick the fax would disappear?

Andrew Hockley from Clemenger Direct questioned if your business could “stand a relationship with your customer.

Rod Curnow from Marketability explained “what a dynamic database does to the bottom line.

While Alan Gold called database marketing – “the ethical salesman.”

There was also a case study on the fledgling Myer Club – Fly Buys was yet to be invented.

What is also of interest, is how most of the businesses that advertised in the magazine are no longer around. Some were sold, some just didn’t keep up with the changing times.

But here’s one that is still around, though in a much different way than it ever planned to be…

Telecom ad

If only Telecom knew how much our fingers would be doing the walking online in the future…





  1. […] I declare my hand here – I am a firm believer in the power of relevant data. I also understand the delusion of productivity created by capturing lots of data for no other reason than it can be done. In 1988 I opened Australia’s first data consultancy and database management service while running Ogilvy & Mather Direct – called Ogilvy DataConsult. Three years later I opened my own data marketing service as part of my agency – MAD. And have worked with data ever since, even publishing a magazine called Database Marketing. […]

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