And the winner is…

It was a tough year. Some clients held back and limited their spending, while salaries at many agencies were frozen, and suppliers, for their part, took direct hits (see Rose-coloured glasses, page D1). There just wasn't a lot of new business up for grabs.

It was a tough year. Some clients held back and limited their spending, while salaries at many agencies were frozen, and suppliers, for their part, took direct hits (see Rose-coloured glasses, page D1). There just wasn’t a lot of new business up for grabs.

Nevertheless, submissions to our second annual Strategy Direct+Interactive Direct Agency of the Year were strong and showed – despite economic uncertainty – how strategic direct marketing initiatives can effectively impact the bottom line. Within the confines of our ‘walls,’ the focus was on creative flair, stellar execution and impressive results. Judges truly were evaluating Canada’s best of the best. And by all accounts, competition was tight.

The DAOY competition evaluates an agency’s performance on the basis of its work over the past year – judged from the perspectives of strategic thinking, creative execution and results. We also asked judges to assign overall performance scores, which they based on the work as a whole, as well as ‘year-in-review’ précis, provided by the agencies, highlighting some of their milestones; accounts won and lost; and new hires/fires over the past year.

The key word this year was integration. Year over year, there were far more multi-media campaigns on the roster, including print, various DRTV formats, radio and Internet – often as part of thorough CRM programs. ‘Television executions and use of the Internet and multi-media integration – impressive,’ according to one judge.

‘It becomes obvious after seeing so many entries that whenever you can apply existing client knowledge to DR best practices (whether it is media experience or target profiling to get more meaningful creative) the results always pay out.’

A case in point is our top campaign runner-up, as voted by judges: The Sony Store’s database-driven sports-card promotion for sales associates, created by Lowe RMP. A massive segmentation analysis of the Sony Store’s customer data produced a fun sports card promo for sales associates that resulted in the latter increasing their data capture from 10% previously to 70%. In the words of one of the judges: ‘Database analysis was excellent, but most importantly, they were able to make their learnings actionable and truly show how customer segmentation can improve the profitability of a company.’

That campaign, at least in part, has earned Toronto-based Lowe RMP top honours for the second year in a row. The agency’s competition portfolio included work for The Sony Store, The Daily Bread Food Bank and Grand & Toy – all three of which ended up on our judges’ favourite campaign list (see page D13).

Overall, Strategy Direct+Interactive’s seven-member panel of client and agency judges gave Lowe RMP the Direct Agency of the Year title, with a tie for runner-up position. In fact, this year two agencies share second place – MacLaren MRM and OgilvyOne, both of Toronto. The other contenders for the 2001 Direct Marketing Agency of the Year title were, in alphabetical order: Blitz, FCB Direct Canada, VBDI and Wunderman.

The top campaign this year goes to MacLaren MRM for its McNeil Living Well ‘share of household’ integrated multi-channel CRM program. The strategy was dubbed a best of breed program by one of our judges: ‘Well-researched and multi-sequenced campaigns yielding exceptional results – an excellent relational building program with direct ties to product purchases. Excellent work in all areas.’

Congratulations to all who took part! And we’ll see you again in 2003.

How do you get to be Direct Marketing Agency of the Year?

The process began with the selection of the agencies, with the screening based on an online poll of approximately 30 contacts in the direct marketing community. The key to our selection this year was a one-page year-in-review synopsis submitted by each participating agency. Voters were asked to review the précis, which demonstrated agency growth, accounts won and lost and major milestones, while taking into account their own knowledge of each participating agency, and then vote for agencies they felt deserved to move on to the next round. The seven (above-listed) agencies made the cut.

Although there is no entry fee for the competition, the agencies involved put considerable effort into the preparation of their submissions. Agencies were asked to submit three advertising ideas representing work they had done for three different clients over the previous 12 months – the submission could include anything the agencies chose to showcase.

The judging criterion was two-fold. Judges were asked to score each ‘advertising idea’ on the basis of creative, strategy and results. The average scores for this section made up 70% of the final score. The other 30% was an ‘overall score’ assigned by judges, which took into account agency culture and personality, client relationships and overall performance.