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Agency Life

Havas Edge CEO to Join DR Hall of Fame

Havas Edge CEO to Join DR Hall of Fame

Sulaiman Beg

Sulaiman Beg

February 6, 2018

“Just because a message has a URL, that doesn’t mean its job is direct marketing,” says Havas Edge CEO Steve Netzley.

At 24, Steve Netzley co-founded a business that in 26 years would become the largest and most successful full-service direct response agency in the world—taking him from his garage to the Direct Response Hall of Fame.

Netzely, who founded in 1992 what would become Havas Edge, will join six other marketing visionaries as the Direct Response Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 this April.

From creating the first direct response commercial to air in the Super Bowl (Cash4Gold), to creating the first multi-product direct response campaign (Clorox), to selling the first $1,000 product directly to the consumer via television (Bowflex), Havas Edge has continued to innovate and evolve the way companies and individuals establish, create, and maintain relationships with one another through television, print, radio, direct mail, and online media.

We spoke with Netzley about the Hall of Fame honor, why he doesn’t believe all marketing is direct, and why a goal always needs a plan.

" I loved the industry immediately. However, there were a lot of things about how the agency I was working for was set up that didn’t make sense to me."

Congratulations on being inducted into the Direct Response Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018. How does it feel to be honored for your 25+ years’ work in the industry?

Thank you. I feel humbled and honored as this is a recognition from industry insiders, and only a handful of people have been recognized with this honor to date. It also makes me feel old.

How did you get your start in the advertising and marketing industry?

Right out of university, I answered an ad in the newspaper for a job as a media buyer, even though I had no idea what that even was. The ad appealed to me because of one word: commission.

I got the job, and it was for an agency in the direct response industry, focusing on TV. I loved the industry immediately. However, there were a lot of things about how the agency I was working for was set up that didn’t make sense to me. I also saw that the pure-play direct response agencies that existed at the time had all been set up to emulate the structure of traditional media agencies, to no obvious advantage.

What a direct response agency did and how they did it was so different from how a traditional media agency works that it seemed to warrant a different operating structure and strategy. So one of my coworkers, John Shearson, and I decided to develop a plan for what a direct response media agency should look like in order to drive the behavior that clients valued most from that type of specialty agency.

I had only been at my job and in this industry for 10 months when I quit and started what is now Havas Edge out of my garage. I was 24 years old, newly married with a mortgage and a father-in-law who thought I was crazy to try this. But I had an idea for a better way of doing things, and I wasn’t making much working for someone else, so John and I decided to try this out for a year to see if we could make this new agency concept work, and make more money than we were making at our old agency.

Looking back, the decision may have been risky, but at the time I saw it only as a huge opportunity, and, as odd as this sounds, I knew that the only way it wouldn’t work was if I didn’t give it everything I could. I’m proud to say that 25 years later, we’ve created the largest full-service performance marketing agency in the world.

How does Havas Edge differentiate itself from other agencies in the marketplace?

We’re different in a lot of ways. One key way is our size. With more than $1 billion in annual direct response media planning and buying, we are by far the largest full-service direct response agency in the world. Our size is a reflection of our clients’ success. Within this market, client budgets are extremely dynamic, so the more our clients’ benefit from what we do for them, the more they invest in the space. This is true for every agency in our space. Said another way, since the better we perform for our clients, the more they spend with us, we believe that our size relative to other agencies shows that Edge clients achieve success and scale that they can’t achieve with other agencies.

“Clients work with an agency partner because they want to, not because they have to. Never forget that.”

Do you believe that all marketing is direct?

No, I don’t. I believe that marketing has a lot of jobs and certainly engaging someone through direct marketing is one of those jobs. Today, the relevance and importance of a direct marketing strategy are growing rapidly aided by massive advancements in what technology allows us to see, attribute, and optimize. However, I believe that marketing should also be deployed to create consideration; to get people to think about or feel something for a brand, business, or cause without actually trying to create a direct relationship. Just because a message has a URL, that doesn’t mean its job is direct marketing.

How do you define direct marketing in 2018?

I define it as the intention of the assets created to engage one on one with an individual. That engagement is measurable, as is the medium that drove the engagement and the message behind it.

In an ever-increasing digital world, what are your thoughts on the future of direct mail, and where it’s heading?

Direct mail can be and should be an impactful companion tactic to offline and online direct marketing. I don’t think it should be evaluated as a purely stand-alone tactic but as a component of a campaign designed to surround a target.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?

Two things come to mind, so here they are:

“Clients work with an agency partner because they want to, not because they have to. Never forget that.”

“A goal without a plan is a wish.”

At 24, Steve Netzley co-founded a business that in 26 years would become the largest and most successful full-service direct response agency in the world—taking him from his garage to the Direct Response Hall of Fame.

Netzely, who founded in 1992 what would become Havas Edge, will join six other marketing visionaries as the Direct Response Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 this April.

From creating the first direct response commercial to air in the Super Bowl (Cash4Gold), to creating the first multi-product direct response campaign (Clorox), to selling the first $1,000 product directly to the consumer via television (Bowflex), Havas Edge has continued to innovate and evolve the way companies and individuals establish, create, and maintain relationships with one another through television, print, radio, direct mail, and online media.

We spoke with Netzley about the Hall of Fame honor, why he doesn’t believe all marketing is direct, and why a goal always needs a plan.

" I loved the industry immediately. However, there were a lot of things about how the agency I was working for was set up that didn’t make sense to me."

Congratulations on being inducted into the Direct Response Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018. How does it feel to be honored for your 25+ years’ work in the industry?

Thank you. I feel humbled and honored as this is a recognition from industry insiders, and only a handful of people have been recognized with this honor to date. It also makes me feel old.

How did you get your start in the advertising and marketing industry?

Right out of university, I answered an ad in the newspaper for a job as a media buyer, even though I had no idea what that even was. The ad appealed to me because of one word: commission.

I got the job, and it was for an agency in the direct response industry, focusing on TV. I loved the industry immediately. However, there were a lot of things about how the agency I was working for was set up that didn’t make sense to me. I also saw that the pure-play direct response agencies that existed at the time had all been set up to emulate the structure of traditional media agencies, to no obvious advantage.

What a direct response agency did and how they did it was so different from how a traditional media agency works that it seemed to warrant a different operating structure and strategy. So one of my coworkers, John Shearson, and I decided to develop a plan for what a direct response media agency should look like in order to drive the behavior that clients valued most from that type of specialty agency.

I had only been at my job and in this industry for 10 months when I quit and started what is now Havas Edge out of my garage. I was 24 years old, newly married with a mortgage and a father-in-law who thought I was crazy to try this. But I had an idea for a better way of doing things, and I wasn’t making much working for someone else, so John and I decided to try this out for a year to see if we could make this new agency concept work, and make more money than we were making at our old agency.

Looking back, the decision may have been risky, but at the time I saw it only as a huge opportunity, and, as odd as this sounds, I knew that the only way it wouldn’t work was if I didn’t give it everything I could. I’m proud to say that 25 years later, we’ve created the largest full-service performance marketing agency in the world.

How does Havas Edge differentiate itself from other agencies in the marketplace?

We’re different in a lot of ways. One key way is our size. With more than $1 billion in annual direct response media planning and buying, we are by far the largest full-service direct response agency in the world. Our size is a reflection of our clients’ success. Within this market, client budgets are extremely dynamic, so the more our clients’ benefit from what we do for them, the more they invest in the space. This is true for every agency in our space. Said another way, since the better we perform for our clients, the more they spend with us, we believe that our size relative to other agencies shows that Edge clients achieve success and scale that they can’t achieve with other agencies.

“Clients work with an agency partner because they want to, not because they have to. Never forget that.”

Do you believe that all marketing is direct?

No, I don’t. I believe that marketing has a lot of jobs and certainly engaging someone through direct marketing is one of those jobs. Today, the relevance and importance of a direct marketing strategy are growing rapidly aided by massive advancements in what technology allows us to see, attribute, and optimize. However, I believe that marketing should also be deployed to create consideration; to get people to think about or feel something for a brand, business, or cause without actually trying to create a direct relationship. Just because a message has a URL, that doesn’t mean its job is direct marketing.

How do you define direct marketing in 2018?

I define it as the intention of the assets created to engage one on one with an individual. That engagement is measurable, as is the medium that drove the engagement and the message behind it.

In an ever-increasing digital world, what are your thoughts on the future of direct mail, and where it’s heading?

Direct mail can be and should be an impactful companion tactic to offline and online direct marketing. I don’t think it should be evaluated as a purely stand-alone tactic but as a component of a campaign designed to surround a target.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?

Two things come to mind, so here they are:

“Clients work with an agency partner because they want to, not because they have to. Never forget that.”

“A goal without a plan is a wish.”

Sulaiman Beg is Havas' Director of Global Internal Communications. He has never eaten canned tuna fish.

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