Tips for Entering Awards: Why Earning an ECHO Means More Now

Here are a few tips for a better campaign entry into the Association of National Advertisers International ECHO Awards competition.

A lot of people don’t realize that the Association of National Advertisers International ECHO Awards competition has been around a long time a really long time like 90 years! Nearly as long as ANA itself.

But this is the first year, from call to entries (Spring 2019) to awards presentation and gala (March 2, 2020, in Orlando at the all-new ANA Masters in Data & Technology Conference), that ANA has complete stewardship of these global top awards in data-inspired marketing. ANA inherited the ECHOs from its acquisition of Data & Marketing Association last summer.

Wow, if you ever wanted to showcase your data prowess in brand engagement, then this year and all years, going forward is a most-perfect opportunity to do so. ANA’s mission is all about brands and growth. Now’s our time to show brands firsthand how data is today’s workhorse in brand engagement and can integrate, beautifully and strategically, with creative storytelling and, vitally, produce business results.

This is how you earn (and win) an ECHO, with the extended call for entries open until Aug. 30. No last chance for a summer Friday!

Tips on Prepping a Better Award Entry An ECHO or Anywhere

I’ve had the opportunity to serve as a judge and jurist on several award competitions and recently, I conferred with some of my judging colleagues of the ECHOs. Here’s a few resulting tips for a better campaign entry.

Why Enter Awards, in the First Place?

First, it helps your career to gain recognition for marketing excellence among peers, your boss, your clients … and with ANA fully vested in brands (and their ad partners), that’s a whole new layer of industry recognition. Second, by becoming part of a knowledge base of “the best of the best,” you help elevate the practice of data-inspired marketing at a moment in marketing history where data-love is in high demand.

Prep Your Entry Offline Before Entering Online

Prepping the entry offline allows more freedom to write and rewrite, spell check (yes, THAT matters), and just make sure you cover each section thoroughly. Also, if English is not your first language (this is an international competition but administered in English), consider having someone who is a native English speaker review and edit your entry. That will help make sure mistakes in language don’t affect judges’ abilities to comprehend your brilliance.

Be considerate of the way judges will be reading your entry … so do NOT write one long paragraph. Instead, break sections of explanatory copy up into smaller paragraphs and don’t be afraid to bullet copy to convey or emphasize key points.

Give Context Regarding the Problem or Opportunity That a Campaign Seeks to Solve for

Don’t assume a judge has heard of the advertiser or is familiar with its products or services selected judges may come from all over the world. Set the stage for the story you’re about to tell, so it helps put your entry in a business context.  Data-inspired campaigns rely on a data strategy. Provide key insights into a brand’s target audience and what you were trying to accomplish and how data intelligence informed the campaign.

Make sure to tie results back to campaign objectives … because if you don’t, it will leave the judges wondering if you actually achieved a meaningful outcome. Make sure you provide plenty of detail and use substantive quantitative terms that speak to engagement and business goals.

Yes, it’s okay to share campaign metrics, such as open and clickthrough rates, response rates, social amplification, participation rates, and such. But a winning campaign moves the needle on business success. So having some type of business result either actual or indexed help’s judges discern the extraordinary from the merely accomplished.

Use a Storyboard or Short Video to Sell the ‘Wow’ Factor in the Campaign

Finally, any top advertising award is going to require some type of “wow” innovative creative or use of technology, stunning results, or a new strategic approach (or rarely, all three). We’re storytellers so use a creative device in the award entry to help “sell” the campaign with a bit of wit.

Video today is wisest to use even expected but even a storyboard summarizing campaign highlights helps. This is your chance to tell the judges why you believe your efforts deserve an ECHO. What makes it so noteworthy among the hundreds of entries that this campaign commands to be recognized? Don’t just repeat your results … dig down deep to help judges your peers, and brand leaders among them really understand why a particular marketing achievement is so incredible.


So after this month, it’s onto judging rounds this fall and the ECHO awards presentation and celebration in winter (in Florida, thank you). For that reason alone, it’s a great year to earn you, your brand, your colleagues, and your clients an ANA ECHO.

Stonewall | LGBTQ+ Pride Turns 50 — And the World Comes Together

When I was judging the ANA International ECHO Awards last year, many of my judging colleagues saw this data-inspired Destination Pride campaign from PFLAG Canada.

When I came to New York in the 1980s, working as a media relations manager at the Direct Marketing Association, the city was a very different place than it is today.

New York was crawling out of bankruptcy, awash with graffiti, litter and crime, and thousands of people dying from a virus which our president barely would mention. ACT UP  AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, American Foundation for AIDS Research, God’s Love We Deliver, Housing Works  this was the new “industry” that rose up in New York (and elsewhere) to find a way to halt a crisis that was robbing the world of bright, young minds  people from all walks of life.

Straight or gay, we were all running and hiding from a virus … in advertising, in media, in fashion, in the arts, in finance, and so on. It didn’t matter who you were  it could find you, and you’d probably die. My own Stonewall was not a riot in Greenwich Village in 1969, it was joining the fight against AIDS 20 years later, and a fight for those who were afflicted, marginalized, and isolated as pariahs.

Welcome to New York From Thousands of People I Never Got to Know

One of my first experiences upon moving to New York was giving food to and hugging a homeless man outside McDonald’s on Third Avenue. He was covered with lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma, a manifestation of AIDS. He said, through crying eyes, that I was the first person to have touched him in two years. He was so frail, but his hug was so strong. I know he probably did not live long thereafter. I cry for him, even today, as I recall this happening. I wonder, too, about all the thousands like him, whose contributions we’ve been denied ever to know.

This fight against AIDS must continue today  a cure must be achieved. Thankfully, drug treatments have emerged to help those who have HIV infection, to become undetectable, or to prevent infection altogether, but these therapies are expensive and research toward better treatments, and a cure, must be funded. For those who become HIV+, it may no longer be a death sentence, but I’m certain it’s still no picnic. There are too many population segments living outside affordable, accessible, quality health care.

Pride and the Pursuit of Happiness

Through all this, I came to New York City because it represented a place where all of the world’s individuals could be who they are  no matter who you are and the city fosters such individualism, collectively. Stonewall, having claim to the birth of our modern gay rights’ movement, was part of this allure. Growing up in small-town America, I loved small-town values, but I could barely find myself thriving in the restrictions, expectations, and judgments that served, in my mind, to repress my own freedom-loving path and pursuit of happiness. New York would be my catalyst. In fact, New York even as a global city is, to me, a quintessentially American city where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can be very hard, but well worth the reward.

In 1994 on the 25th Anniversary of Stonewall I marched down Fifth Avenue, with people from all over the world who gathered to show our pride.

Twenty-five years on, we are prouder still. In 2019, I’m going to march again in New York  this time on the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. I march for me, liberated, yes and for all of those who live still in repression, who are denied equal access under the law, and who are hated, harmed, or ignored, simply because of whom they choose to love. World Pride is a celebration of boundless, limitless love but also a love with responsibility toward ourselves and each other. Love respects. Love is compassionate.

Plan Your Travel Accordingly: Love and Education in a Campaign

When I was judging the ANA International ECHO Awards last year an extremely rewarding experience that I’m hopeful you choose to make happen for yourself this year many of my judging colleagues saw this data-inspired Destination Pride campaign from PFLAG Canada (agency FCB/Six, Toronto):

The Association of National Advertisers just posted this updated commentary about the campaign on its own site and YouTube Channel.

This campaign earned a GOLD ECHO, among many other advertising honors. The campaign shows how technology, data and creativity came together to truly help make the world more safe, tolerant and enjoyable for everyone, providing global destinations with a LGBTQ+ friendliness score. (New York City scores a 72 with room for improvement. How is your city doing?)

I’m hopeful to see more such innovative, provocative, and engaging ECHO entries this year. Great work toward positive business and social outcomes matter.

Stonewall50 | World Pride, march on!

As Amped-Up Ad, Data Privacy Laws Near, Self-Regulated Programs Matter More

As we prepare ourselves for federal (and state) legislation around privacy and advertising, it’s worth taking account of our own industry’s self-regulated programs — both those here at home and worldwide.

As we prepare ourselves for federal (and state) legislation around privacy and advertising, it’s worth taking account of our own industry’s self-regulated programs — both those here at home and worldwide.

Why? Because even in an age of regulation, self-regulation — and adherence to self-regulatory principles and ethics codes of business conduct — matter. One might argue that legal compliance in industry is good enough, but business reputations, brand equity and consumer trust are built on sterner stuff.

Having a code of conduct is exemplary in itself, but I’d like to address a vital component of such codes: enforcement.

Self-Regulated programs
Transparency & Accountability in Advertising Self-Regulation Matter Greatly. | Credit: Chet Dalzell

Credibility in Codes Requires Peer Review & Accountability

Behind the scenes, every day, there are dozens of professionals in our field who serve — as volunteers and as paid professionals — to monitor the ethical practice of advertisers, who devise and update the codes we adhere to, who educate companies that proactively reach out to them, who work with companies and brands that go astray to resolution, and who enforce and refer non-compliant companies to government agencies, when necessary.

They may take complaints directly from consumers, competitors and industry observers. They may employ technologies and their own eyes and ears to monitor the marketplace. They may meet regularly as volunteers as a jury to deliberate on any need for corrective action. And, usually, they have a “contact us, before we contact you” operations effect: brands and businesses can proactively ask ethics programs questions about the “right” way (by the consumer) to execute a marketing practice, so it doesn’t prompt a formal query after a mistake is made after the fact.

Importantly, credibility depends, too, on reporting publicly on outcomes — potentially to “name and shame,” but most often to work cooperatively with businesses and to serve as an industry education vehicle in the reporting of correction and the resolution process. Generally, “punitive” is when a non-cooperative company is referred to a government agency for further action. Government agencies, for their part, tend to wholeheartedly welcome any effective effort to keep the marketplace aligned with the consumer. It helps when brands and consumer interests are in sync.

Accountability Programs Deserve Our Industry’s Expertise & Ongoing Financial Support

All told, these important players in our field serve us well, even as we face what might be referred to as co-regulation (government regulation on top of self-regulation). While any potential business mishap — for example, in the handling of consumer data or the questionable content of an ad — has its own set of facts and ramifications, a demonstration of good-faith efforts to adhere to ethical business practices might be seen as a mitigating factor, even as a brand finds itself needing to take a corrective action.

Agility, flexibility and responsiveness … these are all attributes of successful self-regulation — as well as successful accountability. Effective self-regulation serves to keep pace with innovations in our field, and “point the way” for other companies, as issues arise. (The rigidity of laws rarely can accommodate such innovations.)

While industry professionals may serve as volunteers on juries and review panels — it can be fascinating to serve on such panels — there is almost always an infrastructure of programs and staffs underpinning self-regulation success. Trade associations may finance some of these efforts with membership dollars — but usually businesses can lend their own resources directly, too. It’s great to have a seat at the table.

Marketing Ethics & Self-Regulation Programs — A Partial Listing

In all likelihood, there are potentially many more codes of conduct — particularly in vertical fields (pharma, travel, non-profit, retail, etc.) — but here is a brief listing of advertising-related codes and programs that may be helpful to catalog, bookmark, research and support, with some of which I’ve had the honor to be associated:

Please feel free to use the Comments section to suggest others. And thank you to every volunteer and staff person who serves or has served in an industry accountability capacity. It makes a world of difference, with marketplace trust of advertising and advertisers being the ultimate goal.

10 Must-Attend B2B Marketing Conferences for 2019

It’s encouraging to see a resurgence in the quantity and quality of B2B marketing conferences and trade shows these days. For a while there, I was worried, as event after event went dark. Part of the upturn is due to the growth of the proprietary client conference.

It’s encouraging to see a resurgence in the quantity and quality of B2B marketing conferences and trade shows these days. For a while there, I was worried, as event after event went dark. Part of the upturn is due to the growth of the proprietary client conference, where B2B companies host clients, and often prospects, with an array of educational and schmooze opportunities.

Sirius Decisions, Terminus and Marketo are prime examples. But other events have emerged, too, to support marketers seeking information on martech, data, personalization, ecommerce, social media and other challenging topics.

Here’s a lineup of top-quality conferences scheduled in the remainder of 2019:

Mostly B2B, featuring a keynote by thought leader Matt Heinz, and sponsored by ON24.

Organized by Demandbase, with a free livestream of the keynotes for those who can’t attend in person.

Worth a jaunt across the pond.

Now folded into the Adobe Summit, this event has grown to 15,000 marketers. Wow.

Chaired by Scott Brinker, focused on technology tools for B2B and consumer marketers. Martech East runs in Boston, September 16-18.

Digital marketing and e-commerce for manufacturers and distributors. Where industrial marketers meet.

Covers the gamut, from product management to channel marketing, and everything in between. Plus, a touch of start-up and innovation content.

Featuring popular speakers like Gary Vaynerchuk and Geoff Ramsey, with an emphasis on brand and advertising topics.

This lively show continues to grow and thrive. Not 100% B2B, but just about.

My favorite. It claims to be “The best B2B marketing conference on the planet,” and as a frequent speaker and attendee, I can attest.

Save the Date for Next Year


A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Revisiting Do-Not-Call — With 7 Lessons for Us Today

I was a big fan of President Bush 41. I believed strongly in his career of service, which prepared him well as our nation’s leader. I indeed voted for him — twice. I miss his civility and quiet effectiveness as a world leader.

I was a big fan of President Bush 41. I believed strongly in his career of service, which prepared him well as our nation’s leader. I indeed voted for him twice. I miss his civility and quiet effectiveness as a world leader.

But I won’t forget one act of legislation that he signed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. Initially, the law required private-sector telemarketers to maintain individual do-not-call lists and honor consumer requests to not call them at home, mirroring industry self-regulation codes at the time. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) monitored the marketplace and enforced the law but passed, for the time being, on any united do-not-call registry administered by the government, though it had the freedom to do so.

Eventually, however, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) under Bush 43 stepped in and established a government-administered National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry, which took effect in 2003. As many as 72 percent of Americans may have placed a number on that list.

And so ended most outbound consumer telemarketing … at least those by legitimate companies, that is.

Gee, Has Your Phone Rung Lately?

Now I ask you, today, how’s that still working for us?

During coverage of President George Herbert Walker Bush’s funeral last Wednesday and Thursday, my cell phone, home phone and office phone registered 11 unsolicited, masked and robocalls regarding health insurance, offers of credit, energy savings and a fundraiser.
Now, business-to-business calls are exempt from TCPA. So are non-profit calls and calls from politicians, and calls from businesses where I, as a consumer, have conducted transactions (and have not requested an opt-out).

But I can’t help but think of this law, the registry and its original purpose. There are some lessons for us to consider here.

Lesson 1

Lawmakers love to exempt themselves from regulation of marketing activity they find offensive somehow from the private sector but very effective when it comes time for their own outreach. Funny how that happens.

Lesson 2

Easy government-administered and mandated opt-out solutions National Do Not Call Registry look good on paper. They may even be politically popular. But are they effective in stemming unwanted intrusions? Ah, 15 years later, I think not.

Lesson 3

In setting up the DNC registry, the FTC effectively elevated a mere annoyance unwanted calls at dinnertime to a level of privacy protection that really harmed no one. A simple, albeit repeated, ring on the phone was equated to an outright intrusion into the home. I agree, a ringing phone interrupts. That elevation, however, was unprecedented: Prior restrictions on marketing use of information focused on real harms.

Lesson 4

The private sector has plenty of ways for the consumer to manage in-home peace and tranquility is a DNC registry even needed anymore? Time, technology and circumstances change sometimes rapidly. Advanced in age and wisdom, even my mom and dad know how to screen incoming calls for legit vs. bogus calls. We have plenty of tools that help us manage.

Lesson 5

In the late 1980s, ’90s, and 2000s, consumers had a free, easy way to opt out of national telemarketing calls: the Direct Marketing Association’s Telephone Preference Service. Even a state or two chose TPS as their own state’s DNC registry. Why the FTC even needed to spend taxpayer millions vs. DMA’s dimes to run a registry is a curious mystery. Often, the private sector through self-regulation or marketplace innovations offers consumers no-cost or low-cost options to limiting commercial free speech at the consumer’s discretion.

Lesson 6

Data quality in the hands of the government can be suspect. Eventually, the National DNC Registry became bloated and loaded with cellphones, disconnects, reassigned numbers and other data miscues. Industry complaints in their use of DNC did eventually bring some resolution here but if a private-sector data asset ever got the same lack of quality treatment, then it would have been abandoned years ago by the market.

Lesson 7

Fraud is fraud is fraud and bad guys lurk. Nefarious players are going to flaunt or ignore laws and regulations, anyway so policymakers and enforcers might rather pursue courses of action that still allow beneficial economic activity to happen, while focusing on fraud that is indeed harmful, and not merely an annoyance to some.

Am I Jaded: Is the DNC Registry Today Really About Fewer Calls?

There are some people who measure Do-Not-Call registry success and possibly other would-be Do-Not marketing mandates based on how many Americans have signed on and that’s enough for them (read, easy votes). Blah! The law effectively killed a legitimate marketing activity, undermined commercial free speech and has not kept pace with fraudsters.

Sign-ups are the exact wrong metric to pay attention to … if they care about why such a DNC registry was purportedly designed in the first place. Fifteen years on, this registry has lost its way. What matters is less ringing at dinner time and during funerals.

In a Digital Era, Trade Show Interactions Still Matter

In today’s digital-first ecosystem, it’s easy for businesses and their clients to build high-value connections without ever meeting face-to-face, yet many industries continue to present at trade shows. What motivates these efforts?

In today’s digital-first ecosystem, it’s easy for businesses and their clients to build high-value connections without ever meeting face-to-face, yet many industries continue to present at trade shows. What motivates these efforts?

Unlike online marketing and networking, trade shows offer opportunities for businesses to perform recon on their competitors, track industry trends, and build supplier and distributor relationships. From a competitive perspective, then, trade shows are a must-attend event — but that doesn’t mean technology hasn’t changed how these shows operate.

Pre-Show Assessments

Trade shows last a few days, but anyone who’s spent time on the circuit knows that the majority of the work takes place before you arrive.

Businesses need to build pre-show media connections to boost publicity, perform research to determine the best shows to attend, and plan their presentation, from giveaways to booth display. Luckily, technology is helping businesses reduce the costs associated with participating in trade shows, particularly through the use of AI to select shows.

One option is using the program SummitSync. Companies can map past conference and trade show participation against internal CRM data to determine whether attending a given event will be beneficial to them. This allows the company to estimate their ROI on a given conference and only attend those that are the best use of their time and resources.

The B2B Advantage for Trade Shows

Unlike many digital marketing efforts, attendance at trade shows isn’t typically focused on building connections with individual customers. Instead, trade shows lean heavily on the B2B angle, connecting companies with each other and, in the case of manufacturers, providing opportunities for one-on-one interactions with distributors.

Since it’s much harder to target distributors via online marketing campaigns, trade shows are a powerful setting for promotion, negotiation, and product demonstration. Shows also offer companies a chance to solidify previously digital relationships and consolidate brand loyalty.

Certain industries place a special emphasis on trade shows and consider them an essential element in their marketing practices. The specialty foods market, for example, which is projected to control 20% of market share in the next few years, has always relied heavily on trade shows as part of their distribution and sales model.

Using aggressive educational campaigns and an appeal to health, fresh food, and interest in local eating, specialty food brands have long used trade shows to get their products on shelves around the country. Other niche brands can learn a lot from food companies’ practices.

Industries in Transition

Ultimately, trade shows provide valuable insight into changing market trends, and this is the greatest motivation for companies to attend.

At this year’s L.A. Textile Show, brands demonstrated how they’re embracing sustainable fashion, integrating technology and textiles, and centering activism in their work. Though the show isn’t one of the largest yet, the producers are focused on becoming a must-attend show for the industry. That means promoting the show online, demonstrating the quality of past events, and encouraging attendees to act as boosters, advertising their planned attendance at the 2019 event.

Business relationships today take place largely online, but it’s time to rethink this kind of digitization. Though online networking can form the foundation for professional connections, email will never replace a handshake and one-on-one demo. That’s where the trade show comes in: to roll data and direct connection into one powerful event.

Understand and Optimize the Value of (Third-Party) Data for ’Growth’

With DMA’s &Then18 in Las Vegas taking place this past week, I may report that the transformation from “direct marketing” to “data-driven marketing” is complete, and that the disruption of marketing overall, in all its forms, continues to accelerate. Third-party data, for growth, is a marketing trend we’ll discuss here, too.

With DMA’s &Then18 in Las Vegas taking place this past week, I may report that the transformation from “direct marketing” to “data-driven marketing” is complete, and that the disruption of marketing overall, in all its forms, continues to accelerate. Third-party data, for growth, is a marketing trend we’ll discuss here, too.

DMA, a division of Association of National Advertisers, now represents mastery in “Data Marketing & Analytics” and the conference curricula certainly emphasized the present and future of data-inspired marketing. No time for tears and nostalgia, we all have work to do. Yes, direct marketing has provided the foundation and discipline for data-driven marketing to flourish — testing, measurement, accountability — but with the speed, sources and size of data, it’s clearly a new day.

Brands (ANA) are now firmly focused on data and measurement (ANA’s ownership of DMA). As one big family, the conference opened with a hefty statement from ANA President & CEO Bob Liodice and DMA Group Executive VP Tom Benton about why all this matters: “Growth.”

If we’re not disrupting, we’re being disrupted — and probably we’re being disrupted, anyway. Growth does not belong to the hesitant. Still, being agile doesn’t mean being foolish, it means being “fuelish” — understanding the data you have and acting on the insights data, the fuel, presents. Perhaps this is good reason why Bonin Bough served as emcee for the conference. His in-your-face energy reflects the energy in Data Marketing & Analytics that must be unleashed for desired business outcomes to be achieved.

It’s not so easy.

Data sits in silos. Enterprises have legacy systems. New marketing technology doesn’t easily interact with these systems, if at all. Data goes stale. Data isn’t trusted. Quality may be elusive. Integration raises conflicts. And well-meaning but ill-advised privacy regimes, as public policy, could tank responsible data flows.

Use Data Wisely, Responsibly and With Confidence

One focus in programming was a needed one: how to make sure brands access and use data with confidence.

Matt Tipperreiter, senior product strategy director at Experian Marketing Services, presented an enterprising perspective on “data4good.” This was not about social good and cause marketing. It was about providing a professional approach to pursue quality, actionability and best for first-party data management, third-party data sourcing, identity profiles and single customer view, campaign and media activation. I’ve included this image that speaks to this helpful construct.

DMA talks third-party data for growth
Photo taken at DMA, a division of ANA &Then 2018 Conference, Experian Marketing Services Talks Data4Good. | Credit: Chet Dalzell by Experian Marketing Services

Another panel included data experts from Alliant, Dun & Bradstreet, FCB Chicago, LiveRamp and Stirista — which examined third-party data, in particular. [Disclosure: I have a client relationship with two of these companies.]

Of late, brands have expressed some concern with their planned use of both online and third-party data. In research from the Duke University Fuqua School of Business, “The CMO Survey,” nearly 12 percent report they are likely to decrease third-party data use in the coming two years — while six in 10 will maintain a steady commitment. If brands and businesses are truly committed to growth — as ANA and DMA maintain — then they must not abandon reliance on third-party data. All the first-party data in the world cannot provide a whole view of the customer — at least one that can enable smarter decisions about audience targeting and understanding.

“The customer must be the central focus — not the data, not the technology,” said Josh Blacksmith, SVP, General Manager — CRM, FCB Chicago. While brands are sacred, the audience is more sacred.

I’ve maintained that without third-party data, customer growth in an efficient manner is much less likely. So it is imperative that data providers tackle brand safety and brand confidence concerns with third-party data for growth — which is most often tackled through data due diligence, testing and proof of concepts, and a commitment to data quality.

‘Data Label’ Me Transparent

Right on cue, another panel explored the new data labeling initiative by ANA (DMA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab, among others. Currently, the marketplace is being asked to provide comment on the proposed label [label sample available at the link] that the working group has put forward. The goal is to increase transparency as to the source of commercially available data, and to give an apples-to-apples view for such data.

Finally, making the greatest business case for data marketing and analytics expertise is showcased in this year’s ANA International ECHO Awards. Congratulations are in order for all this year’s finalists and winners. DMA members have access to a brief synopsis of each winning campaign, but anyone is free to read of them online here.

The next ECHO Awards presentation is slated for the next ANA Data Marketing & Analytics conference, March 2, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. See you there!

10 Tips Judging Marketing Awards Allow Me to Teach Brands

I’m judging marketing awards during the dog days of August, with steaming heat in New York City. It’s been a challenge this week choosing which campaigns will win recognition on Oct. 7 in Las Vegas. Earning my vote takes some doing. Here’s how marketers did it.

I’m judging marketing awards during the dog days of August, with steaming heat in New York City. There’s no better time than now to gather 100 or more data-driven marketing storytellers, strategists and creatives to judge this year’s Data and Marketing Association’s International ECHO Awards. (DMA is now a division of Association of National Advertisers).

It’s been a challenge this week choosing which campaigns will win recognition on Oct. 7 in Las Vegas. Earning my vote takes some doing.


1. Measurement Matters. Great creativity abounds. Yet, what matters to most CMOs is defining what business objective is achieved or surpassed through any campaign. If strategy and creative are stellar, but results toward an objective are nebulous or not addressed at all, then I’m going to discount the campaign’s overall score.
2. Talking to the Category Matters. Many award shows allow an entry to be submitted in more than one category. In that regard, ECHOs are no different. But just don’t check a box when entering. Instead, tailor the single entry campaign description to address in a meaningful way all the categories that are checked. For example, if “customer acquisition” is one of the checked categories speak to customer acquisition in the strategy and results. Show how the creative makes it easy for the customer to engage.
3. Creative Matters All of the Creative. I love a good video that summarizes a campaign entry it’s helpful for the judges in a pinch. But don’t solely rely on the video as a surrogate for showing all of a campaign’s creative elements. Judges don’t want to read or hear about a direct mail piece they want to see the actual direct mail piece (or PDF). Likewise, the mobile app, the landing page, the display ads and so on. Don’t leave a judge guessing which components worked and which may not have.
4. Set a Stage for Strategy. Open with a pain point, an opportunity statement, or some salient market research. Provide the context for the entry with a candid discussion you’ll get rewarded for brutal honesty. If a prior campaign flunked and this marked a turnaround, then say so. We’ve all been there. On the other hand, if a new campaign establishes a new control, hallelujah!
5. Let’s Get Technical. And Let Me Hear Your Data Talk. ECHOs are all about data-inspired creative and accountability. Tell me the customer and prospect data integration story the tech platforms, the analytics, and the personalization techniques. I get high when the love for strategy shows in the data discussion and how that strategy shapes creative and gets validated in results.
6. Make America Great Again … No, Not That One. Courageous clients and out-of-the-box thinking seem to co-thrive in many, many places around the globe. Because I don’t know who will be named ECHO winners this year I can only say from prior years that some innovative strategies are in play … petroleum made from beer:

Empowered sick kids:

And an 800 number answered by a nation’s citizens:

There are many well-executed U.S.-based campaigns with solid results but that extra magical mojo still seems to be shaken, not stirred in cocktails elsewhere. Bring it back home. Be a risk-taker. Let’s get the U.S. Navy more cryptologists.
7. What Was the Budget (Range)? Judges scratch their heads when key elements used to determine return on (marketing) investment are absent, or when no ROI or cost data are shared at all. No one expects proprietary information to be disclosed but there are ways to convey cost or ROI data (cost per acquisition, cost per conversion, cost improvement) in ways that are indexed or objective specific. Judges love understanding if and when campaigns truly break even.
8. Proofread and Check Your Math. I’m one of those people who shudders when The New York Times or New Yorker has a spelling or usage error. (You’d think I’d live my own life mistake-free, well hardly.) I can’t be the only stickler left on this planet, am I? In the rush to get entries in the door ahead of deadlines, errors do get through sometimes slight, but sometimes it’s more substantial “engagement” math off by a power of ten! No wonder the return on investment was so good … or was it?
9. Camaraderie and Conversation Among Peers Are Really Cool. When you judge Round 1 (online and alone), you get to see clever campaigns and a store of ideas to apply in your own marketing. When you are lucky to be chosen to judge Round 2 (face-to-face in New York), wow! You still cast your votes alone but only after a lively discussion, debate and worldwide reality check. It’s an 8-hour day (or three in a row), but with plenty of meal-time and after-hour networking, too. It’s a true marketing exchange and the points of view are well-articulated. Discussions open eyes and minds.
10. Awards Matter, as Do the Entries. There will be Gold, Silver, Bronze and Finalist ECHOs named plus a Diamond ECHO for top campaign overall. Still, there was at least one great idea in nearly every individual entry I saw.

Collectively, I also saw something else, which too often gets overlooked and underappreciated. Advertising and today, that also means the data that fuels it may seem to serve brands. And it does. But this week while judging marketing awards I saw a lot more. Advertising (and data) also creates customers. It creates commerce. It moves markets. It creates and serves audiences. It informs. It finances. It employs. It empowers. It inspires. Advertising is essential, yet we cannot take any of it for granted. Awards call attention to great work, by great people, achieving spectacular returns and those extend way beyond the brand. It’s good to be a judge.

By Association: Brands, Data and Marketing Finally Have Come Together

Call it marketing data’s destiny. On July 1, if membership approves, the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) will be owned and operated by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). Perhaps a merger more than 100 years in the making.

Call it “marketing data’s destiny.”

On July 1, if membership approves, the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) will be owned and operated by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

The former first began in 1917 — the latter in 1910. Perhaps this moment is destiny 100-plus years in the making.

In 1915, William Wrigley sent chewing gum to every household listed in every phone book in America — more than 1 million at the time. That was “direct marketing.”

What David Ogilvy Knew, We All Must Know Now

One of the greatest advertising practitioners of all time – David Ogilvy – knew that “direct response” advertisers — no matter what the medium — knew which ads worked, and which didn’t, because of their discipline to measure. Direct marketing was Ogilvy’s “secret weapon.”

Google did not invent analytics — direct marketers were always data-driven, and have been testing and analyzing and measuring every piece of advertising real estate under the sun. Google helped to introduce analytics to digital-first marketers.

Early on, direct marketers recognized Amazon as what it truly is — front end to back end: “direct marketing on steroids.”

DMA knows data. Its conferences, content, professional development — and advocacy and representation — have always advanced the discipline of data-driven marketing, in quality and quantity. Accountability, efficiency, return on investment, testing and audience measurement — these attributes, for perhaps decades too long — were relegated “second-class” citizenship by Madison Avenue, general advertising and the worship of creativity.

Oh, how times have changed.

Data Streams — What Direct Response Started, Digital Exploded

Even before the Internet was invented, smart brands — leading brands — started to recognize the power of data in their advertising and marketing. While some had dabbled in direct mail, most pursued sales promotion techniques that mimic but do not fully commit to direct marketing measurement. It was the advent of database marketing — fueled by loyalty programs, 800 numbers and credit cards — that gave many “big” advertisers their first taste of audience engagement.

Brand champions were curious, and many were hooked. Nothing helps a brand more than customer interaction. Data sets the stage for such interaction through relevance — and interactions enable behavioral and contextual insights for future messaging and content.

Digital marketing — and mobile since — have exploded the availability of data.  So all-told, brands must be data-centric today, because that’s how customers are found, sustained, served and replicated. In fact, data-centricity and customer-centricity are nearly indistinguishable.

ANA and DMA coming together — it’s as if brands understand (or know they need to understand) that data champions the consumer and serves the brand promise. Data serves to prove the effectiveness of all the advertising, marketing and engagement brought forth.

ANA has been acquiring organizations — Word of Mouth Marketing Association, Brand Activation Association, Business Marketing Association and now the Data and Marketing Association. There certainly may be more to this most recent transaction than my humble point of view here today.

But I’d rather believe that data-driven marketing, finally, has received an accolade from brands 100 years due. Congratulations are in order.


What Does Facial Recognition Tech Mean for Marketing?

2018 is the year innovative events are embracing Facial Recognition! A wise marketing investment, facial recognition technology delivers enhanced security and better UX, plus unmatched analytics and insights. It is already used to tag photos on social media, unlock and pay with cell phones, and go through border security.

Astra Bierre uses facial recognition technology to target women with beer ads.

Panos Moutafis, Ph.D. is Co-Founder and President of Zenus Inc., which specializes in facial recognition systems for multiple applications. A computer scientist by trade, he is well-known for his work ethic, diligence, and persistence. I caught up with him over breakfast in Houston recently, keen to discover if facial recognition technology could become mainstream, or sit on the fringes like many other great ideas such as RFID and iBeacons.

Facial Recognition:  Fact or Fad?

Peter:   Panos, first, is facial recognition technology in its heyday?

Panos: This is more than a cool technology that people will start using ‘sometime in the future’. Facial recognition adds clear value such as improved security and better user experience along with unmatched analytics and insights. It is already used to tag photos on social media, unlock and pay with cell phones, and go through border security. Since people are getting accustomed to the technology, facial recognition is becoming an expected service rather than a nice to have feature. 2018 is the year innovative events are embracing facial recognition!

Peter:   And this goes beyond what most people imagine?

Panos: Couple it with adjacent technologies such as emotion recognition or human posture recognition and the possibilities are limitless. You gain full control. Every powerful technology comes with great responsibility though. Respecting people’s privacy and handling metadata in a transparent and prudent manner is vital. Every party who has access to this type of information must be thoroughly vetted, 100% trustworthy and held accountable to the highest standards.

Event Marketing: Let’s Get Personal

Peter:   Let’s talk about events.  How does this technology work here?

Panos: The use of physical tokens and privileged information have become integral parts of an event lifetime. They are used to check in people, restrict access, personalize the experience, measure attendance, extract analytics, and perform lead retrieval.

Facial recognition belongs in the third form of authentication along with other biometric approaches. It is a software, which can identify a person from a database of faces without requiring a physical token or the user to provide any privileged information. Technological advancements have increased accuracy and drastically reduced.  Therefore, we are seeing increased adoption in other industries (e.g., airports, social media, and cell phones).

Peter:   Well, take us from the start of the process; I always chuckle to myself when I check into to a high tech event for a mega-company and I wait in line for someone to tick off a spreadsheet or hand write my badge!

Panos: The attendees are not always good at following instructions displayed on the terminal. They often cannot find their ticket; it takes them a while to retrieve the QR code on their phone, or they simply need time to type in their email address.

Facial recognition addresses the root cause of the problem by eradicating the need for user actions. Depending on your preference, you may want to implement a self-service or a hosted check-in mode. In either case, the premise is the same. When an attendee approaches the check-in station they will be instantly identified without them having to take any action. Simple.

The best part is that you do not need to purchase expensive hardware because any device with a camera works. This includes virtually all laptops, tablets, and smartphones. In addition to making the check-in process more efficient and thus reducing costs, face recognition has been proven to increase user engagement and attendee satisfaction. It is an excellent way to promote the innovative nature of your brand and impress attendees.

Peter:   And I guess ID checking is enhanced?

Panos: Even though checking the ID of the attendees entering the venue is a step in the right direction, most of the existing implementations have limitations. Attendees are asked to present their ID and an untrained host is taking a quick look before giving it back. This is not enough. Doing a proper ID check, on the other hand, is time-consuming. One would have to check the issue and expiration dates, scan the code and make sure it matches the ID unique number, check whether the picture matches the person presenting the document, and so forth.

There is a faster and more secure way to perform this task properly. In particular, attendees can be requested to take a picture of their ID along with a selfie when they register online. A facial recognition algorithm will ensure that it is a real picture (liveness/spoof detection) and that the two faces match; other computer vision algorithms will perform the rest of the checks in real-time. We see this approach being used widely in other applications such as the banking and hospitality industries (e.g., Airbnb).

Peter:   Could this be used for Session Tracking as well?

Panos: Event hosts spend a significant amount of time recruiting speakers, curating the content of their shows, and organizing sessions that cover different aspects of the event theme. In addition, conferences with a deep educational focus often assign credits and accreditation to participants who attend specific sessions.

Face recognition is a good fit for this because it requires minimal setup and extracts analytics in a non-intrusive manner. Depending on different technical factors, session tracking with face recognition can be as simple as putting a tablet or cell phone on a stand near the entrance of each room. The camera will automatically capture the video stream and send it to the cloud for processing. There is no need for special hardware and expensive installation costs.

Peter:   We’ve experimented with heatmaps for different clients using RFID technology in the past – could this be done more cost-effectively now?

Panos: Face recognition can be a great way to compute and draw heatmaps. Tracking the number of faces visible by the camera across the different event locations is straightforward. It does not require special hardware and it is easy to install and configure. Depending on the level of investment, the information can be as high level as how many people on average stood and passed by a certain point of interest or as fine-grained as extracting insights by group type and knowing each attendee’s journey.

Peter:   How about other applications out on the show floor?

Panos: One can use screens (equipped with a camera) around the venue that identifies attendees and display personalized information ranging from where food is being served to what next session they should attend. Likewise, the information desk personnel could be equipped with similar capabilities. Being able to identify a person while they are walking towards the desk allows them to personally greet them and anticipate their needs.

Along the same lines, one could combine face recognition with chatbots to offer the most efficient and personalized customer service. There is a myriad of interactive applications that could be developed. It is up to your imagination.

Calling All Marketing Qualified Leads

Peter:   And my favorite subject of course: Lead Retrieval!  How does face recognition factor here?

Panos: As you know, the current situation is that exhibitors have to manually scan each person’s badge and enter all the relevant information into a lead retrieval application to summarize the discussion. With face recognition, it is possible to automatically keep track of how many and which people visited the booth. The lead generation and conversion statistics are vital in the sales process.

In addition, this technology allows you to keep track of how long attendees stayed at the booth and how they were feeling. Analyzing their sentiments combined with the information collected before/during the show enables lead management like never before.

At the end of each day, the exhibitors will receive a full report. The leads will be automatically scored by their likelihood to make a purchase decision so that the team can focus on the best targets and following up promptly. Face recognition combined with audiovisual sentiment analysis will have a dramatic impact on leads retrieval.

Peter:   I know that some people will think that Facial Recognition is creepy and they feel uncomfortable about it?

Panos: That is true, but real-world deployments by Zenus and our partners show that the majority of attendees are willing to use facial recognition. That is, the first time an event planner introduces the option they can expect 50-60% of the people to upload their photo. We see attendees talking to their friends and colleagues about how fast and easy the check-in process was, so we expect the opt-in rate to grow for repeat events.

The great thing about facial recognition is that not everyone must opt-in. Instead, it works in conjunction with name search and barcode scanning. The same check-in station can simultaneously allow attendees to use any of these three ways to get their badge. If you have enrolled in face recognition you will simply go through faster!

It is worth noting that a participation rate of 20-40% is enough to make a difference to the on-site registration process. Speeding up the process for this portion of the registered attendees can address bottlenecks.

Peter:   What about collecting the images – is that hard?

Panos: There are plenty of online registration companies that already allow attendees to upload their headshot or take a selfie. Most devices such as laptops, tablets, and cell phones have a front-facing camera. If necessary, one could opt to use their social media profile picture. It really isn’t as hard as people might think.

Peter:   OK, let’s talk money – it still sounds expensive?

Panos: Some technologies are expensive, especially the ones that require specialized hardware, customizations, and on-site support. However, software-based applications tend to be more affordable. Luckily, face recognition falls into this category. Unless the event planner has excessive requirements, the associated investment is just a few cents per attendee expected to register.