The Business of Awards
From Lisa Sanders’s story in the June 5, 2006 AdAge.com, titled “Are Advertising Creative Awards Really Worth the Cost?”:
NEW YORK (AdAge.com)—This year the kings of Madison Avenue will spend an incredible $37 million entering ad award shows, a number that looks like vanity gone wild, given that the pencils and lions are often denigrated as little more than ego- (and salary-) inflating devices for the creatives that crave them.
As the publisher of the newsletter, WHO’S MAILING WHAT!, I was persuaded by Axel to rethink the business of awards. In direct marketing, the only true winners are those that bring in orders, donations or inquiries at a profitable cost-per-response and are mailed over and over again—making the marketer obscenely rich.
Often, these winners are plain-Jane, ugly ducklings containing brilliant and persuasive copy, such as Martin Conroy’s classic “Two Young Men …” effort for The Wall Street Journal, that was a control for 25 years and brought in over $1 billion in subscription income.
They’re never entered in anything and wouldn’t win if they were.
I came up with a new credo: “I can’t judge good direct marketing; it judges me.” I became intensely interested only in marketing efforts that worked and were provably profitable. So I refocused the editorial mission of the newsletter to analyze these controls and made the information available to my readers, so that they could (in the words of U.S. News & World Report circulation director Dorothy Kerr) “steal smart.”
The Axel Andersson Awards
At some point in our tenure at WHO’S MAILING WHAT!, Peggy and I came up with the concept of the Axel Andersson Awards—recognition of “Grand Controls.” These were (and are) mailings that have been mailed for three or more consecutive years—the great loot generators.
Nobody entered the Axels for the award. Their work was entered into the mail stream and automatically became candidates for a faux papyrus certificate suitable for framing.