Direct marketing is often seen as an end around of the traditional media sources by which advertising is delivered. Involving the use of fliers, street advertising and, perhaps most importantly, mailed advertisement, direct marketing has many critics. Though there are many benefits as well, the disadvantages of direct marketing can be significant. Many consumers are alienated by what is seen as the intrusiveness of direct marketing into the otherwise private moments of their lives.
"Junk mail" is the pejorative term used for direct advertising involving mail. Many people become agitated by the constant influx of direct marketing materials to their private mailbox. The use of the term "junk" to describe it is an indicator of this social phenomenon. By using direct mail, a company risks alienating the customers it seeks to gain. The use of direct mail is often associated with a company of lower status and quality.
Direct marketing has come under additional criticism in recent years for the disadvantages that it poses to the environment. Direct marketing typically involves the heavy use of physical components in order to give consumers an object they can hold in their hands. This physical side of direct marketing means that a greater amount of natural resources are consumed in their production as well as a greater amount of pollution.
It is hard when using direct marketing to get any reliable metrics on its impact. With more traditional advertisements such as radio and television, there are often immediate results that can be measured. Direct marketing involves a much longer-term strategy where the results are uncertain and the best that can be said is that it may be working. It is often very unclear whether direct marketing is alienating more customers than it is creating.
It is hard to get as immediate of an impact when using direct marketing, as the advertising product, by its nature, takes time to reach consumers. Waiting for consumers to receive the physical product of direct advertising means missing out as potentially more efficient advertising from competitors reaches them through the radio and television and other sources. Time is often equated with money in business, and the time ratio in direct marketing is a disadvantage.
The distribution of fliers and street advertising is often prohibited by law in certain areas. This is a major disadvantage of this form of direct marketing as certain customer bases will be unreachable. If a marketer wishes to reach customers, for instance, in a high-traffic and wealthy area, this may be impossible using direct marketing of this kind.
There is an inherently limited geographic reach to direct marketing involving fliers and street advertising. By using this form of direct marketing, you will be limited to consumers in a very specific distribution area and will have to depend on word of mouth for others. This form of direct marketing has severe disadvantages in this way when compared with other forms such as television or radio.