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I'm sitting in the living room listening to Sinatra singing "Where or When" and think I'm in the perfect place at the right time to enjoy it....

If I were working out in the gym, neither time nor place would be right for Sinatra. All the good folks at MarketingProfs would tell you "Content is everything." As a marketer, I would say "Context Is Everything."
Online, with paid search engine marketing and pay per click models, advertising is delivered to consumers only as they choose the "Where AND When." So if I'm searching for a direct marketing consultant, I shouldn't see an ad for a stock brokerage company or a tour to China. The time and context are not right to advertise those.
Similarly, I would expect an ad for a GM car to appear if I searched on "automobiles." Think about how much better this is than having a car ad pop up when I'm on, say, The Atlantic Monthly site. My head is specifically into automobiles and not a James Fallows' interview or essay. When I see an ad at the time my mind is on that subject, I'm going to spend much more time with it, and I'm probably going to take some kind of action now, rather than later.
I used The Atlantic Monthly for a reason. Some 25 years ago, a media director at O&M Direct was putting a test schedule together for me when I was running circulation for Standard & Poor's The Outlook.

was starting to wear out as a response vehicle because we were running so frequently, and we were looking for other publications to test. The media director made a strong argument for The Atlantic Monthly .... similar demographics to The Outlook subscriber; a surprisingly good average investment portfolio, etc. I bit. Big mistake: no context, no response.
Sometimes advertising, particularly print advertising, can become contextual. Suppose, for example, you're generating leads for a foreign language course. You run small space print in the travel section of the major newspapers. That ad may run 50 times and I'll never notice it. But when I'm planning to travel internationally I definitely will see it because there is now context.
For all its strengths, direct mail to prospects cannot deal with the "when" factor. There is no raising of hands, as there is in a search, saying "OK, I want you to send me mail now." The closest we can come to being contextually right is in mailings triggered by events .... moving to a new home, starting a business, graduating from college, for example.
It is the inability to know the "when" factor that makes direct mail to prospects so frightfully expensive. In that context, give me online for prospect self-identification and then direct mail to help do the selling, if a single visit to the site isn't enough.

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Lee Marc Stein is a direct marketing consultant and copywriter with over 40 years experience. He has developed and executed direct marketing programs for a wide variety of marketers in the publishing, insurance and financial services, nonprofit, technology, and business-to-business arenas. Current clients include Effectiveness Solutions Research, Entertainment Publications, Long Island Children’s Museum, National Grants Conferences, Rickard List Marketing, Travelers Insurance, and a number of direct response agencies.

As a direct response agency executive, Lee worked with companies like Chase, Colonial Penn Auto Insurance, Dial Corporation, Hertz, Mead Johnson, The Money Store, and U.S. Airways. He also held marketing management positions at Standard & Poor’s, BusinessWeek, and McGraw-Hill Information Systems Company.

Lee taught at NYU and Hofstra, and has spoken at 100+ industry conferences. He was a Founder of the Long Island Direct Marketing Association, and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Direct Marketing Association of Long Island.

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