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.