On Wednesday night I headed down to the DMA Awards in London, celebrating the best of Britain's direct marketing industry.
I already knew one of the results, as I had the privilege of being a judge in one of the categories – Best Use of Social Media. Although we weren't told the winner on the judging day, it was pretty clear that the 'Extreme Gamer' campaign by Epson Europe would walk away with the Prize, as it became clear during the judges' discussions that we all thought it was by some distance the pick of the bunch (it's certainly worth a read).
The judging process did leave me with a few questions, though. Time and again, as I looked at campaigns based around YouTube videos or Facebook pages, I found myself asking of the entries: 'It's good, but is it direct?'
It's no secret that there's a bunfight for social media going on at the moment. PR agencies, ad agencies, digital agencies – they're all after a piece of the action. And there's no reason why direct (or response, or one-to-one, or precision, or whatever other name the discipline wants to call itself) marketing agencies shouldn't get in on the act.
But on several occasions I found myself looking at campaigns whose targeting criteria seemed to be 'Facebook = young people' and which were measured on such nebulous metrics as hits, 'likes' or buzz. Incredible, given direct's heritage of rigorous data and clear ROI. There couldn't be a better sign of DM's recent identity crisis.
Thankfully, there were still some good examples of social media campaigns that had direct principles at their heart (see the Pringles campaign that used Facebook Connect data very smartly, or the Capital FM campaign that left it with a database of Facebook 'fans' to which it can send content and other information in future).
Elsewhere on this blog, Heather Westgate argues that the best campaigns at this year's awards demonstrated a "return to some of the core values and techniques of direct marketing". That shift should be welcomed. The digital space is still hindered by a host of woolly metrics; given their background, the best direct agencies should be in a good position to sort the wheat from the chaff.