The Direct Marketing industry has suddenly got very bad. At least that’s what you’d be forgiven for thinking after the Cannes Lions Direct awards.
Direct entries were up 8% (with around 1,680 entries) but Gold Lion awards were down an unbelievable 66%. Only nine Gold Lions were awarded in Direct (compared to 30 last year), which either means the industry has gone downhill fast in 12 months or that the judges were being very mean indeed.
The rumours around Cannes suggest the latter, with judges I spoke to reporting a lot of negativity in the judging process. So I suppose we should be happy to have made it onto the shortlist with our Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community campaign.
Other than the lack of Gold Lions, the outstanding aspect about this year’s awards, for me, was the absence of traditional direct mail at the high table. Only one of the nine Gold winners was for a mailing campaign and that was a commercially suspicious (though clever) campaign for an insect killer spray aimed at ants.
There were plenty of examples of great mail packs on the shortlisted work we looked at in the viewing gallery. But the judges seem to have been seduced by new media like the rest of the world and lost faith in the good old mail pack.
It’s great that direct is expanding into digital media and that direct response techniques are being used online to good effect. But if you’re going to go down that road, at least make sure the judges are familiar with online work that’s been created before. One Gold winner (out of only nine remember) was a banner campaign for a car company that took you on a race around Europe with each click on a banner taking you to a new page in a different country. Which is exactly the same idea as a Mini campaign a couple of years ago only not as well executed as the original.
I was also under the impression that direct response was about getting measurable results. Far too many of the shortlisted campaigns we saw had laughable results sections, with meaningless assertions like Anecdotally the campaign was very well received and The campaign went down well with the target audience and sales increased.
Oh dear! I know Cannes is all about creativity and that other awards are more focused on results. But surely campaigns that obviously haven’t worked in any meaningful way shouldn’t make it onto the shortlist of a prestigious international awards.
Anyway, despite the rather gloomy message the judges seem to have sent out, I saw some fantastic direct work here with clever, involving ideas that worked hard and contributed to the brand experience.
I’ve been inspired and reassured that reports of the death of our industry have been greatly exaggerated.
Cannes Lions Direct winners Cannes Direct Lions winners