For a medium which delivers such impressive results for marketers,
direct marketing spent a surprising amount of time in its formative
years being sneered at by ’mainstream’ advertising professionals.
DM has long since won the battle to be accepted as a powerful
communications tool. Few people today would doubt that if response is
needed, DM delivers.
Yet in the darker corners of marketing there are still those who need to
be convinced that DM can do more than just elicit replies. At its best,
it can help turn good products into great brands.
Today direct marketing is a pounds 500m-a-year business, according to
Royal Mail, which delivered more than three billion items of direct mail
in 1996. Royal Mail aims to add pounds 300m to that total figure by
2001. Its long-term strategy is to position itself as the ’media owner’
of the direct marketing industry, boosting its business by encouraging
greater volumes. Part of that strategy is its sponsorship of the Direct
Marketing Association’s own awards scheme.
Last year Royal Mail spent more than pounds 100,000 on the awards and
associated activity. Its objective might seem straightforward: to
encourage the use of direct mail. But there is more than a quantity
argument for promoting the awards; better quality is also important if
the future growth of the medium is to be encouraged.
’Volume growth is obviously of huge importance, but to grow volume you
need credibility,’ says Barbara Cadd, Royal Mail Streamline’s director
of communications. ’We’re up against rival media with arguably more
cachet in part of our target market, especially traditional
Advertising agencies have always been keen on awards - D&AD yellow
pencils, Campaign Press and Poster - and the direct-marketing sector is
The DMA/Royal Mail awards, now in their 19th year, offer direct
marketers the additional bonus of recognition by their peers to stand
alongside the proven effectiveness of their campaigns.
The first gold winner, when the awards were launched in 1980, was
Heritage Collection and BMP for Tjaereborg, and since then the awards
have notched up an impressive record of industry success stories.
Last year’s awards were no exception.
The Marketing Store won the best retail award for its work on Adams
Louise Milner, account director on the Adams business, says the award
made a real difference to the company. ’The client was ecstatic,’ she
says. ’It gave us the motivation to press ahead and try for another
award this year.’
The process of entering the awards also helped The Marketing Store to
understand more about how its own direct-marketing efforts worked as a
whole. ’It made me realise that what we’d done was very comprehensive,’
says Milner. ’Sometimes you’re doing bits and pieces and it’s only when
you’re putting together an awards entry that you realise how the whole
thing fits together.’
The result, for all the staff involved, was greater motivation and a
will to push the award-winning idea still further.
Today the rewards scheme which won last year is going from strength to
strength. From targeting mothers of young children, Adams has moved on
to talk directly to the kids themselves, addressing their wants as well
as their mums’ needs, as Milner puts it. The result has been the launch
of a children’s club called Jake & Co with its own quarterly comic.
’Feedback from store level is that it has been a great success, with
kids taking the comic into the playground and passing the word to
others,’ says Milner.
Other award winners too have been driven to greater efforts, and those
who enter and succeed once tend to keep coming back. The record so far
is held by Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel, which has won 18
For Royal Mail, the investment in setting up and developing the awards
has so far paid off in way that might well qualify for an award of its
own for successful business-to-business marketing.
Marketing efforts around the awards - including advertising in the trade
press, a huge direct-mail campaign and public relations through Rosalyn
Palmer PR - help to develop Royal Mail’s own positioning as the media
owner for direct mail.
The real pay-off for Royal Mail’s investment comes on December 12, when
the great, the good and the simply hopeful of the DM industry gather at
the presentation ceremony on December 15 to find out who has won. As a
networking opportunity for Royal Mail to meet its customers it is
With direct mail received per head in the UK still lagging behind the
rest of Europe, according to Royal Mail, there is still plenty of room
for growth - and, presumably, for another 18 years of awards.
The closing date for entries for the 1998 DMA/Royal Mail Direct
Marketing Awards is today (Thursday) so you will need to act fast if you
want to sneak a last-minute entry under the wire. Call Janet Attwater on
0171 766 4408 for more information.
This year’s judging panel is chaired, for the second year running, by
Judith Donovan of Judith Donovan Associates. The panel is split into
judging groups headed by Wanda Goldwag of Air Miles, Elizabeth Harraway
of Fashion Cafe, Laurin MacDonald of Sitel Corporation, Laura Jones of
IMP and Lin McCarthy of Stalwart Assurance. They and their teams - a
total of 100 judges - will spend a total of about 600 hours between them
poring over the entries between October 20 and 22.