The winners of this year's Direct Marketing Association/Royal Mail Awards were announced this week, with the top accolade going to the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) for a multiple media campaign to increase sales of its Young Person's Railcard.
More than 900 entries were submitted and, though not a record in historic terms, this is a substantial increase over each of the previous two years, following the introduction of a tougher judging process in 2000.
Under the new system, a gold is only awarded to entries reaching the highest standards of strategic thinking, creativity and results.
Nevertheless, the number of golds has risen, from just 13 in 2000 to 28 last year and 30 this - and there are only two categories with no gold award. The question arises, are the judges becoming too lenient?
Marc Nohr, chairman of the organising committee and joint founder of DM agency Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw, says no. "In the first year after the reorganisation we were incredibly tough," he says. "Last year, there was a bit of a reaction against that. Some recalibration was needed.
"Now it has evened out. Some categories have yet to reach the highest standards against all three criteria, but I genuinely feel that the work was very good this year. Huge strides have been made in terms of joined-up thinking in areas such as brand development and the use of digital media in integrated campaigns."
The choice of this year's Grand Prix underlines the point. Though the final decision was unanimous, the choice was made from a shortlist of several excellent campaigns. No one could have objected on quality grounds if any one of those had won.
Judging standards are very high, insists Lin McCarthy, head of brand and customer strategy at the Automobile Association, who chaired the judging panel. Previously, she says, the industry produced some very good work and a lot that was mediocre. That has changed.
The DMA/Royal Mail competition is always a battleground for agency reputations.
This year, honours were evenly split between two agencies. Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel won the Grand Prix for its work for ATOC, plus four golds, three silvers and two bronzes. Harrison Troughton Wunderman took six golds, a silver and five bronzes.
GRAND PRIX WINNER ASSOCIATION OF TRAIN OPERATING COMPANIES (ATOC)
The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) campaign to promote its Young Person's Railcard turned conventional travel advertising on its head with a message that effectively said 'anywhere's better than this dump'.
The pay-off line, 'Don't be a local', targeted a young audience renowned for hanging about, moaning that there's nothing to do. Psychologically, it hit a nerve because the last thing teenagers want is to be thought of as unadventurous stick-in-the-muds.
Three-quarters of all youngsters in the 16 to 25 age group use trains for leisure travel, but only a quarter have railcards that entitle them to discount fares. One reason for this has been confusion about eligibility.
The short answer is that anyone in the right age range can apply.
As well as raising awareness of the railcard, ATOC wanted to attract more visitors to its web site and build its database. To meet these objectives, Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel devised a multi-faceted campaign that boosted sales of the card by 24% and awareness of eligibility by 14%.
Details of more than 17,500 young consumers were captured.
The campaign began with press ads in magazines such as Mixmag and Kerrang!, designed to drive web traffic. Viral e-mails were used to increase entries in a competition with a top prize of a weekend away for a group of 10 friends.
Banners and pop-up screens on the internet and ambient media in pubs, ranging from beer mates to heat-sensitive urinal stickers, urged 'sad' individuals to get out more.
This year's judges praised the campaign for being "brave" and "highly relevant". It won the Grand Prix, gold awards in the travel & leisure and multiple media categories, and bronze in the outdoor/ambient media section.
GOLD WINNER UNICEF/TBWA/GGT DIRECT
Having decided to target its most generous donors with a plea to 'make a real difference', the United Nations' children's charity sent agency staff to Ethiopia to witness the work of a local hydrologist bringing pure water to a village. They used his actual spreadsheets and field notes to produce a pack that the judges said reeked of authenticity and which explained exactly how the money would be used.
The top segment of supporters was invited to change the lives of a whole village by making donations of £1500. It was hoped that the campaign would raise about £240,000, but it achieved more than twice that.
GOLD WINNER O2/TULLO MARSHALL WARREN
A Gold for customer relationship management went to mobile phone company O2 for an ongoing programme that requires an incredible amount of number crunching.
It's linked to a communications programme from Tullo Marshall Warren that has up to 4000 copy variations in each mailing.
Every quarter, O2 analyses the way each customer in its loyalty scheme is using his or her mobile and provides unambiguous advice about which tariff would be most economical for them and their circumstances.
The benefit to the company is that the churn rate among scheme members is half that of other customers. Every 1% reduction in the overall churn rate contributes about £5m in profit.
2002 DMA/ROYAL MAIL AWARDS - GOLD WINNERS
Award category Client Agency
Automotive Volkswagen UK Proximity London
Business-to-business MTV Broadcast Servs Spirit IC
Business-to-consumer Crosby Homes Marketing Advantage DDB
Financial Services M&G Investments Harrison Troughton
FMCG Lever Faberge Creative Partnership
Fundraising Cancer Research UK WWAV Rapp Collins
International Xerox Harrison Troughton
Leisure & travel ATOC Craik Jones Watson
Telecommunications Vodafone Harrison Troughton
Business direct mail COI Comm- Tullo Marshall Warren
(high vol) unications/RAF
Business direct mail Condor Post TBWA/GGT Direct
(low vol) Production
Consumer direct mail Orange Craik Jones Watson
(high vol) Mitchell Voelkel
Consumer direct mail UNICEF TBWA/GGT Direct
Digital media Saatchi & Saatchi Saatchi & Saatchi
Door-to-door The Guardian EHS Brann
Field Marketing CosmoGIRL! KLP Euro RSCG
Inserts Skoda Archibald Ingall Stretton
Multiple media ATOC Craik Jones Watson
Outdoor/ambient media VSO Leonardo
Press Witan Jump CCHM
Radio Automobile Ass. Harrison Troughton
Telemarketing NSPCC Pell & Bales
TV Automobile Ass. EHS Brann
Art direction The Multiple Saatchi & Saatchi
Copy M&G Investments Harrison Troughton
Creative solutions Art Fund Partners Andrews Aldridge
Acquisition M&G Investments Harrison Troughton
Brand building Diageo Great Craik Jones Watson
Britain Mitchell Voelkel
Customer relationship O2 Tullo Marshall Warren
Launches Ocado Heresy