There’s GOLD in that Mailbox – and in that Pencil Box, Too

I’m now amid judging the 2014 Direct Marketing Association International ECHO Awards—which is always a pleasure. In just a few days of judging each year, I get to see what agencies and clients the world over put forward as their best in data-driven direct marketing, encompassing all channels. For direct mail, there is always one campaign that gets honored with the U.S. Postal Service-sponsored Gold Mailbox Award, which recognizes the most innovative use of the medium

I’m now amid judging the 2014 Direct Marketing Association International ECHO Awards—which is always a pleasure. In just a few days of judging each year, I get to see what agencies and clients the world over put forward as their best in data-driven direct marketing, encompassing all channels.

For direct mail, there is always one campaign that gets honored with the U.S. Postal Service-sponsored Gold Mailbox Award, which recognizes the most innovative use of the medium. The named winner doesn’t have to be a direct mail-only campaign—an integrated marketing effort will do, too, as long as there is an outstanding direct mail component, whether foreign or domestic.

This year’s Gold Mailbox campaign will be selected in early August, and will be revealed at the 2014 International ECHO Awards Gala during the DMA2014 Conference in San Diego, Cali. I’ll be there, with luck.

In 2013, the USPS Gold Mailbox went to a German non-profit organization, Chill Out, which used a unique dimensional—a harmless looking pencil box—to educate school administrators in its target audience about the dangers of drug addiction in young children. What was inside the pencil box was dummy drug paraphernalia, an indication that what looks innocent on the outside can hide dangers within. The interior also included how to contact Chill Out, which provides school-based drug prevention programs. The blunt uneasiness of the campaign communicated both urgency and immediacy, and a means for schools to combat this growing problem—affecting one child in seven—head on.

The dimensional mailing, created for Chill Out by Wunderman Germany, generated stellar impact: Of 120 schools sent the mail piece in the German state of Brandenburg, 48 contacted Chill Out, and 29 schools now have integrated the Chill Out drug prevention program.

Not many business-to-institutional mailings generate a 40 percent response rate, with a subsequent conversion of more than 60 percent of respondents. But when the list is accurate, the message relevant—and the creative discerning—engagement happens. Direct mail has power to arrest, to stimulate and to motivate action, especially when it dares to be different. There are a lot of grateful school heads, parents and students, as a direct result.

And a majority of ECHO judges, too.