Earlier this summer I completed my second tour of duty as a judge for the Direct Marketing Association’s ECHO Awards. This year, I got to take part in the first round of entry evaluation, which determines those direct marketing campaigns that are worthy to move on for further consideration. In the first round, you’re separating the wheat from the chaff so you see a good deal of chaff. But let me tell you, you still know immediately when you see wheat that is fit for the king’s bread.
In particular, my fellow judges and I found a couple of the campaigns submitted in the product manufacturing and distribution category to be nothing short of stellar. As I write this, the second and final rounds of judging have yet to take place, so I can’t leak any details on these campaigns—and it’s possible none of them will win, but I doubt it. They were just that good. What they had in common was a high level of channel integration that kept the prospect engaged throughout the entire promotion and beyond. The marketing strategy, creative execution and back-end work made the most of each channel and of each contact with prospects. It was no surprise that the campaign results delivered impressive ROI and a larger customer database for future sales.
I feel honor-bound to report that these future-of-direct-marketing campaigns came from Canadian agencies. Also, I’d like to point out that while they didn’t do this work on shoestring budgets, the total campaign costs only surpassed $1 million for one entry. My hope is that since I judged the last day of the first round, there were piles of campaigns in this category from U.S. direct marketing agencies that had developed equally innovative, multichannel efforts—and those that consisted of more than the provision of a URL or a store coupon as an audience motivator. I hope this because as I hear more and more U.S. companies bemoaning their declining response rates and hurting ROI numbers, I firmly believe the only cure for such doldrums is a kick in the creative and integration pants. These ECHO entries were proof to me that interactivity and multichannel execution can captivate audiences.