Needed Again? The Ad Campaign That Saved New York

It’s midsummer, yet we are at a moment in time when tourism and travel ad campaigns are practically at a standstill, due to COVID-19 and our economic shutdown. Here in New York, the lights of Broadway will be out for not just the rest of summer, but the entire year (subscription required). Who knows if New Year 2021 will bring the bright lights back – and if so, the audiences, with billions in the balance.

The city also was recently met with the passing of Milton Glaser, the founder and publisher of New York magazine, and the graphics genius behind the now-ubiquitous “I❤NY” graphic.

A wise soul never bets against New York.

Another advertising genius, Mary Wells Lawrence — the first woman to found, own, and manage a major advertising agency (Wells Rich Greene, in 1966) – was honored last week with a Cannes Lions “Lion of St. Mark” for lifetime achievement. Her agency – with Glaser’s design – literally took a “deteriorating” New York and launched a Broadway-focused campaign that began the city’s (and state’s) path toward the world giant of tourism that it is today.

Here are some samples of work from this campaign in the early 1980s – note the direct-response call to action. Also of note, Glaser developed the graphics pro bono, and the jingle also was donated by composer Steve Karmen.

A Campaign That Sparked Imagination, Captured a Moment, and Practically Created a Category

New York will need nothing short of another seminal ad campaign – or campaign extension — to revise its fortunes once again.

This work was indeed seminal. Until that time (campaign launch, 1976-77), there were few state-funded tourism campaigns that captured America’s imagination as much as “I❤NY” – only “Virginia is for Lovers” (1969) comes to mind. “I❤NYmay not have invented the category, but it took travel and tourism marketing to new heights in public consciousness.

Famously left for bankruptcy by President Gerald Ford, New York City’s perceived state in the mid-1970s was nothing short of disastrous. Depopulation, crime (Son of Sam), blackouts (and looting), decrepit public transit… one might argue the city barely functioned, if at all.

But New York always fights back. The truth is the city never lost its global mantle atop finance, fashion, night life, the arts, and retail, among other sectors. Broadway is uniquely New York and – other than London’s West End – there was no greater concentration of live theater in all its forms than the Big Apple, so of course Broadway was going to be the initial focus of an ad campaign, which happened to open the door to New York’s comeback.

And oh, did it work, perhaps far beyond tourism and economic revival. It created an energy and mystique for the city that touched a chord with many – not just to visit New York, but to come to the city and live, take a chance, and forge our path in the pursuit of happiness. (When our pop heroes of the time – Blondie, the Rolling Stones, Kiss (Ace Frehley), Michael Jackson – are singing in and about you, adding a dose of parody, it’s also hard not to notice.) What followed in New York City is truly remarkable – a booming economy that even periodic stock market corrections and September 11 could not dislodge. These latter events, merely interruptions.

That is, until now.

A New Marketing Challenge – Who Wants to Step Up?

Even prior to COVID-19, New York has had new images and realities to contend with: a population that peaked in 2016, even amid a wildly successful tech and biomedical boom; Gen Z and Millennials with vitality and genius who can’t afford the price of entry – or, worse, feel it’s not worth it; strangulation by repugnant and short-sighted immigration curtailment and visa restrictions that serve to fail the American Dream. And now, it was the epicenter of a pandemic, which has brought into question the safety of dense population centers everywhere.

So how will NYC & Company, the State of New York Division of Tourism, and Empire State Development perhaps unite to revive New York’s fortunes this go-around?

It’s time for a Next Generation to dream big, strategize, and present the next seminal campaign (extension) that will “save” New York. I ask, who’s going to do it? Where are the next Mary Wells Lawrence and Milton Glaser?

How about you? If you and your agency are creating successful work right now, you can prove it: The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has now issued its 2021 International ECHO Awards call for entries. What makes the ANA ECHOs so unique is that each campaign is judged by peers based on data-informed strategy, creativity, and results in business outcomes that any c-suite would love. “Brilliant results. Executed brilliantly.”

Like the State and City of New York, thousands of brands right now need agency and marketing leadership that inspire, motivate, and move business and the economy. In both consumer and business markets, domestic and global, earning an ECHO shows data prowess in real campaigns that make a difference on the bottom line – attributes and outcomes that are in high demand. Take your best work from 2020 and enter, and I’m proud to say, I’ll have the opportunity to help judge that work this fall.

I’m eager to see the best. New York’s image curators ought to be watching as well.

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.

Conclusion

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.

How Big Idea Marketing Can Live on in Data-Driven Storytelling

In an era not so long ago, creative directors lived in a world where the big idea was the champion — and that champion came from highly compensated (more or less) idea makers, both themselves and their creative teams, and the big idea was put to the advertising test. If big idea marketing were provocative enough, then it might win creative awards at a global creative festival. Other creatives would fawn, congratulate each other, and champagne would flow. Not a bad outcome, if you’re a creative director.

big idea marketing
Credit: Pixabay by Mohamed Hassan

In an era not so long ago, creative directors lived in a world where the big idea was the champion — and that champion came from highly compensated (more or less) idea makers, both themselves and their creative teams, and the big idea was put to the advertising test. If big idea marketing were provocative enough, then it might win creative awards at a global creative festival. Other creatives would fawn, congratulate each other, and champagne would flow. Not a bad outcome, if you’re a creative director.

But did the advertising work? Did it achieve a client business objective? Did it engage customers and produce sales, orders, leads …? Perhaps, or perhaps not. Back then, only direct marketers cared about measurement.

How Data Has Changed Advertising … Forever

Enter data. Well, data entered the advertising marketplace when direct mail and direct selling made its debut. But not to discount direct mail pioneers and their cousins in direct-response print and broadcast and telemarketing, let’s fast forward to the digital era. Wow! Today, do we have data!

Combine that creative genius with a heavy dose of data insights and strategy, and now we have data-driven creative — where creative effort is measured against action. No more gut instincts and guesswork. Agencies and in-house marketing departments can prove that their creative ideation works and, in fact, can use prospect and customer data to drive the creative ideation to predict and produce defined business outcomes.

Is there still a role for big idea marketing? Of course! In fact, breakthrough creative is indeed a mechanism for breaking clutter. But now, we have the means for one more de-clutter breakthrough: relevance. Using data insights to drive strategy, combined with compelling creative and storytelling, and now we’re proving our C-suite mettle.

There’s a role for creative festivals.

Rethinking Ad Festivals

But how about a data festival … or a data-driven storytelling festival? Well, we may just have one, and it’s been around for a while. It’s the International ECHO Award Competition, with its call for entries now underway. (I’m a member of the Data & Marketing Association ECHO Board of Governors.)

If an agency today is not proving its command of creative, data and relevance, then it’s not proving its presence as a business driver — no matter how many creative trophies are in the case. Winning an ECHO is different. It’s always been about data-driven storytelling, and it’s always been about strategy, creative AND results, more or less in equal measure. ECHOs serve as proof points for agencies, and in-house marketing teams, that they have data chops. They serve as signals to C-suites that ECHO winners are trusted business partners who know ad tech, martech, data management platforms, analytics prowess and have a discipline to test and measure — all in equal faith to the creative big idea.

Left brain, right brain. Yes, there’s still necessary discussion today about data, measurement and unfettered creative. But in today’s world, we can have both creative and relevance through data. In fact we must have both to capture elusive consumer attention, and to produce action … to prove our worth.

This roster of agencies let’s fast forward — and their agency groups let’s fast forward — have been named ECHO Award finalists, and Diamond, Gold, Silver and Bronze ECHO trophy winners in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Who will be joining them in 2018? In October, in Las Vegas, we’ll find out.

Credit: DMA

A Hard Call for a Softer Side to Advertising

Social sustainability can be a key differentiator and motivator in our sharing economy. In consumer markets, TOMS built its message upon redefining “Buy One-Get One” as “Buy One-Give One” – and 35 million children around the world (and counting) – and by giving its customers a mission.

Build an emotional connection to your brand.

Change the world, one pair of shoes at a time.

Every individual has an opportunity through education.

We are not data, we are human beings.

One primary take-away from &Then 2015, a DMA event, last week in Boston is that effective advertising today is most certainly about strategy, creativity and results – all over this year’s International ECHO Awards. But let’s add another key ingredient: Social sustainability can be a key differentiator and motivator in our sharing economy.

I’m not talking about some modicum of a social responsibility tie-in … “Buy our product and we’ll plant a tree.”

But rather that, in an economy filled with attention deficit, good advertising, effective advertising, must make us pause and consider. The table stakes for engagement happen when we trust and connect to emotions in ourselves.

In consumer markets, TOMS built its message upon redefining “Buy One-Get One” as “Buy One-Give One” – and 35 million children around the world (and counting) – and by giving its customers a mission. While TOMS has moved its social responsibility mission beyond shoes to eyewear, water and other projects, I choose TOMS precisely because of its giving back along with its very comfortable shoes.

Singer John Legend has his handlers, most certainly, but when you heard his call to action for education reform, justice reform and minority business leadership – therein lays substance and authenticity behind his own storytelling in music. He may not sing about those subjects, but his celebrity is leveraged strictly for those causes that motivate him to act, that have defined his life, in how he was raised and how he sees the world as it is and what it can be through positive change.

Even look at this year’s winning crop of ECHOs. Many campaigns used emotion to tell compelling stories — with breath-taking results. Skoda’s Guardians of Winter, Uniforms for the Dedicated’s Rag Bag, Huggies and Volkswagen’s Eyes on the Road are just a few examples of campaigns that took individuals on an emotional journey of one sort or another – and made you think twice. You literally spend a moment walking life in someone else’s shoes, and realize it could be your own.

Suffice to say, these motivators are hardly new to advertising, it’s just great to see them in employed in data-driven campaigns and breaking through cacophony. What is new is that, as brands seek to connect with target audiences, truly making the world a better place to be is more meaningful today than ever.

Marketing Awards: What Are They Good For?

When I first started in this business, I remember that our new business pitch at Ogilvy & Mather Direct always included a page about the many awards the agency had won — and the DMA ECHO Award was always front and center.

When I first started in this business, I remember that our new business pitch at Ogilvy & Mather Direct always included a page about the many awards the agency had won — and the DMA ECHO Award was always front and center.

Considering we spent all our energy trying to methodically figure out how to stimulate response among a target audience, the ECHO Award was worth bragging about as it celebrated the equal weighting of strategy, creative and results. And after all, if you got that trifecta right, the client was celebrating right along with you.

Today it’s no different. The Direct Marketing Association ECHO Award still recognizes and rewards those individuals who have figured out how to successfully achieve (or exceed!) a desired marketing objective — whether it’s to increase new lead volume, increase average order size, achieve a specific sales goal, retain customers or improve brand perception.

These are all goals established by the most senior of company management as part of overall business objectives, and they then leave it up to sales and marketing to figure out how to meet them. For most, it takes planning, research, strategic thinking, ingenuity, design and copy skill and, sometimes, a whole lot of luck, to create a marketing effort that explodes with success.

How many people can claim that they’ve been on that team?

Often, the DMA and the ECHO Awards are viewed as “old fashioned” or “the people who do direct mail” — but that’s far from reality. The techniques that were carefully cultivated over years of testing and re-testing, are now being applied across the digital landscape, from email to landing pages, in games and on Facebook.

Despite Millenials believing that they are the ones who invented targeting, retargeting, video, and the ability to track, collect and share data insights, direct marketers have been mastering and refining these tools for decades.

Some have complained that awards are worthless — that they don’t consider effectiveness (which is the point of advertising), or that they are merely a way of patting ourselves on the back, or that the high cost of entry precludes smaller agencies.

But effectiveness is one of the key judging metrics for the ECHOs — because what’s the point of designing creative marketing solutions if they’re not effective in helping the client achieve their goals?

And while every awards program needs to charge an entry fee as it takes staff to organize and administrate, the ECHOs are reasonably priced — especially if you get your act together and enter by the early-bird deadline.

And yes, as a winner, it is a way of patting ourselves on the shoulder, but when you create a campaign that helps meet or exceed a sales objective, we should all be shouting from the rooftops!

This year I’m honored to be the Judging Chair of the 2015 ECHO Awards. Our Judging Committee (comprised of volunteers) has worked hard to recruit over 150 senior judges from every corner of the globe. Our current past Chair of the ECHO Board of Governors took over an Ambassador role this year and has been busy working with other associations from dozens of domestic and international marketing organizations to encourage participation from every member — whether as an entrant or a Judge. If you think you’d qualify as a judge, we invite you to apply before June 1, 2015.

The ECHOs are not merely about recognizing ideas or expensive and elaborate creative solutions that only the biggest clients could afford. The ECHOs are carefully reviewed by a jury of marketing peers who carefully review the business challenges you faced, your objectives, your strategic brilliance, how you brought that brilliance to life creatively and the measurable results you achieved. If one of those dimensions falls flat, then your ability to win an ECHO diminishes dramatically.

The bottom line is that the ECHOs are about celebrating business success. And for that reason alone, those that enter and win should be prime targets for recruiters, because these are the people who have figured out how to move the needle. And trust me, that is no small feat.

Judging the 2013 ECHOs: A View of Data-Driven Marketing’s Best

Two weeks back, I had the opportunity to judge Rounds 1 and 2 of the ECHOs this year—and while sworn confidentiality requires me to remain mum on actual campaigns I encountered there, I want to comment on the value of judging itself, from my perspective as a public relations practitioner in our field. The ECHOs have been around a long time—since 1929 to be exact. But what really makes me excited to see the campaigns as a judge each year, is that they represent agencies’ and brands’ self-selected choices on what they consider to be award-winning and innovative work

This past year, I had the honor of joining the Direct Marketing Association’s Board of Governors for the International ECHO Awards. That’s my disclaimer.

Two weeks back, I had the opportunity to judge Rounds 1 and 2 of the ECHOs this year—and while sworn confidentiality requires me to remain mum on actual campaigns I encountered there, I want to comment on the value of judging itself, from my perspective as a public relations practitioner in our field.

The ECHOs have been around a long time—since 1929 to be exact. But what really makes me excited to see the campaigns as a judge each year, is that they represent agencies’ and brands’ self-selected choices on what they consider to be award-winning and innovative work based on the three criteria: marketing strategy, creative and results in equal parts. 2013 is no exception. The honors—which will be announced on October 15 in Chicago—will be the world’s best in data-driven marketing. (Breaking News—comedian Jake Johanssen will be this year’s host.)

There are no longer media categories among the entrants—a reflection of how marketing has converged. Instead, channels serve as brand engagement vehicles, and what matters most is their effectiveness in design, dialogue and generating responses to calls for action—from leads, to sales, to audience engagement on a measured scale. So a direct mail piece that is entered may exist (and be judged) alongside entries that represent Web sites, search campaigns, mobile apps, call center efforts, or—most often—integrated marketing campaigns. Again what matters—and only matters—are the strategy, creative and engagement metrics that define marketing effectiveness. Both consumer and business-to-business markets are incorporated.

The categories where entrants are recognized are by industry—15 altogether. You can review the list here.

This is what being an ECHO judge tells me every year:

  1. How are brands and their agencies measuring effectiveness in data-driven marketing? What metrics have they chosen to index or communicate? How is marketing return on investment conveyed? Increasingly, marketing dashboards appear to be in use—with relevant components part of the external results story.
  2. What creative trends are in play? What constitutes break-through creative? What is the unusual and innovative? Where has risk been met with reward? And who (clients and agencies) are being the most courageous worldwide—while also being effective?
  3. How are data being collected, analyzed and—in some cases—visualized? While the entry forms this year were streamlined and don’t have as much budget information in the past—this really has served to heighten visibility on the data, analysis and segmentation techniques being deployed in the strategy.
  4. What is state-of-the-art in data-driven marketing on a global scale? This year, as always, entries were submitted through various partners and submitted to early judging in Denmark, Australia and the United States, comprising dozens of countries in nearly all continents. It is great to see how globally data-driven marketing is practiced—and the creative genius and extraordinary results achieved in both mature and less mature markets.
  5. Finally, judging happens on an individual basis—as a judge you evaluate a campaign, providing your own perspective. But the judging is a collective one—bringing together experienced peers from all over the nation and world. Once the entries and judging scores are in, we do tend to share with each other our impressions of the experience in the aggregate—and meet great people in the process.

In brief, the ECHOs are an idea store for marketing strategists, creative professionals—and the PR folks like me who support my clients in entering awards. I’ve learned not just about how to create great marketing—but how to tell the story behind great marketing. Both count when it comes to crafting an award entry that wins.

You can find out who the winners are firsthand by attending DMA2013 in Chicago, USA, this year (October 12-17, 2013). Make sure to indicate in your registration for a ticket to the ECHO Awards Gala where a separate registration is required: http://dma13.org/registration/

Come October, I’ll definitely be sharing in this blog snippets from some of my favorite campaigns this year!