I'm proud to have been involved in the judging of this year's DMA Awards, which will be announced tonight. For one thing, it's always fascinating to see how things change from year to year - and also what stays the same. And the 2010 entries have come from a more diverse mix of agencies and clients than ever before.
The biggest single change in the awards over the last year or so has to be the increasing relevance of digital criteria: good direct marketing has always been about maximising customer engagement, and in today's environment, the best way to achieve this is often through integrated marketing activity across a range of digital and traditional platforms.
From the evidence I've seen in this year's DMA Awards entries, marketers are embracing this approach with increased confidence and panache. Rather than thinking in terms of online and offline 'matching luggage', ROI has increasingly become the starting point - and effective integration has become the means of delivering that ROI.
This trend is very positive, as it has sparked a return to some of the core values and techniques of direct marketing - intelligent targeting, proposition development and strategic timing.
Naturally, we all love to see integrated campaigns which work seamlessly to lead customers on a cleverly orchestrated journey. But I can assure you that we've also seen innovative and exciting work across specialist channel categories like direct mail, social media and TV.
For me, a perfect example of integration and exceptional ROI from the recent past is this RNLI campaign from Proximity, which won the 2009 DMA Awards Grand Prix. It delivered outstanding results through intelligent insight and targeting, by using direct mail as a catalyst for the blogging community.
The campaign targeted 15 to 20 year olds with the objective of educating a new generation about the RNLI. By sending out direct mail packs to just 12 influential vloggers, the activity managed to generate almost a million views of the vloggers' comments on the charity, 8,000 texts and 150 videos, reaching 11% of the target audience with the campaign's core messages.
This marked a sea-change in direct marketing. It was so simple, and yet so perfectly pitched and executed.
It's important to remember that the winning campaigns don't need to be complex. But they do need to find exciting and relevant ways to engage with audiences and deliver the desired response.
Over the next 12 months, I expect to see a rise in sophisticated 'test and learn' activity exploring new and exciting ways to manage customer journeys across platforms. The best direct marketers are those who are not tied to one approach and who communicate with today's consumers, not at them.
Personally speaking, I think now is one of the most exciting times to be working in Direct Marketing.
The 2010 DMA Awards will be announced in London on December 8th, with all of the winning case studies to be published on warc.com from December 9th.
Warc subscribers can browse a full list of 2009 DMA Awards winners here.