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.


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!

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.

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