Editor's Notebook: 75 or 25?
How old is the Direct Marketing Association's (DMA) ECHO Award? The
answer depends on who you ask. A few months ago I was contacted by Bob Bobowski, a direct marketing consultant who used to run an agency called MaxiMail and has served on the board of directors of the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing. Bobowski's more important claim to direct marketing fame is leading the development of the first ECHO Awards program in 1979. Since that's just 25 years ago, you could say that Bobowski is more than a little peeved that the DMA is touting the 2004 awards ceremony as the 75th anniversary of the ECHO.
What's going on here? Well, technically the DMA is playing fast and loose with the dates, but it's not entirely out of line. The association has been running an awards program for direct mail since 1930; until 1979 this contest was known as "Best in Direct Mail." The focus of the awards program was purely educational, and the DMA drove the winning entries around the country in a caravan whose aim was to spread the message of direct marketing and help
companies learn how to leverage direct response strategies.
According to Bobowski, a conversation between himself and then-DMA President Bob DeLay convinced DMA brass to expand the "Best in Direct Mail" contest to include other direct response media. Thus, the ECHO was born.
The DMA has continually updated the program, adding interactive media and integrated media categories. For the 2004 contest, an A. Eicoff Broadcast Innovation Award was introduced to recognize an exceptionally innovative broadcast media campaign; the award is named for direct response television
pioneer Alvin Eicoff.
Minus a few names, that's the short story of the ECHO. I have to admit that as an editor of a publication devoted to uncovering stellar direct mail, I have not been all that thrilled with the work being awarded ECHOs. So many of the
campaigns have been one-offs that I've found few examples of what's working to share with you. That changes with this issue: Managing Editor Tracy Gill talked with People magazine about its latest control (actually, it has two controls), and learned that the package just won a 2004 ECHO Award.
As I write this column in late September, I'm adjusting my schedule to attend the ECHO Awards brunch in New Orleans. I'll keep you posted on any other great success stories.