Is Pay Per Click a form of Direct Marketing?

Are PPC programs like Google AdWords and Facebook Ads just another form of direct marketing, along with direct mail and telemarketing?

On first sight PPC advertising may appear to have little in common with sending a mailing. But look a little deeper and you’ll see more similarities than you may have imagined.

First off, let’s accept a definition of direct marketing as sending a tailored marketing message or communication to an individual, as opposed to above the line communications such as press ads which can be seen by many.

Then consider how Google AdWords works: a user enters a search term, and if we have chosen to target that phrase our tailored message appears to that person on an individual basis. Sounds a lot like direct marketing.

Look at Facebook Ads and you can refine your marketing by the user’s location, gender, age, and interests. Now PPC really is becoming direct marketing.

Of course you could argue that a key difference between PPC and direct mail is that you don’t work from a database for online and so don’t have individual data on each recipient. But of course if users click your ad you can track their online behaviour using IP address and cookies, building a database.

So, if the similarities exist, the next question is what can direct marketing and PPC learn from other?