Where would you rather be in a marketing recession?
Running a large agency or a start-up? How about client-side -- running the marketing department of a large brand or a small one? I have direct experience of at least one of those scenarios this year -- and while it's been a happy experience, it has been a tough year.
But the biggest surprise of all, and a pleasant one at that, was to see the DMA/Royal Mail Awards receive a record number of entries. This year, of all years, you'd expect us to have had a hard time. In a year of agency mergers, downsizing and other unfortunate consequences of marketing budgets being squeezed, it seems a little counter-intuitive.
Of course, the marketing of the awards is now a well-oiled machine, as year on year we've sought to improve our strategy, targeting and creative. But surely there's something else going on -- are agencies keener than ever to spread a little good news? Is there better work out there demanding our attentions?
Either way we had a bumper year this year. And I'm talking quality as well as quantity. In digital alone, we had a record 48 submissions and some serious pencil-chewing to arrive at a shortlist of three.
This category, which used to be the preserve of IT companies, is now populated by brands from all sectors. Websites are being joined by email campaigns, microsites, banners and mobile technology -- providing evidence that "digital is forming an increasingly important part of integrated campaigns" according to group leader Mike Colling.
Two of the categories I led -- including creative solutions and automotive -- also demonstrated the fact that direct marketing comes in all shapes and sizes...in terms of type and size of brand and media mix. The automotive judges had to judge campaigns for Fiat, alongside Jaguar, as well as Lexus alongside Skoda -- across media including email, inserts, TV and direct mail.
Over in the brand building category, there was increasing evidence of the efficacy of direct marketing in helping build brands. The metrics are becoming more sophisticated, in some instances spanning several years, and those judges also had a hard time ensuring that like was compared with like and the best work rewarded.
Agency wise, some of the most familiar names in the history of these awards have picked up finalist places again this year -- like Proximity and Craik Jones -- and refreshingly, they're joined by less familiar names including Heresy, Armadillo, Spirit and Immaculate Conception.
Similarly, familiar brand names in these awards -- like Land Rover and NSPCC -- are joined by a growing band of FMCG brands (Kellogg's, Gordon's, Persil) and some newcomers (Ocado, Yorkshire Forward and two different TV post-production houses).
The AA has several finalist places, including work conceived by several different agencies including HTW, M&C Saatchi and EHS Brann.
What can be said about this year's winner? Nothing right now. You'll have to wait until December 3.
Finally, a debt of thanks to this year's chair of judges Lin McCarthy, to awards organiser Janet Atwater, to the awards committee and 200 judges that help make these awards as respected and sought after as they are.
Marc Nohr is managing partner of below-the-line agency Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw.
This article was first published on brandrepublic.com