DMAs: a vintage year for one-to-one marketing

Mark Runacus, a partner at Karmarama and the chairman of the DMA Awards Committee, gives his view on the best direct marketing campaigns of the year.

Mark Runacus: partner at Karmarama and the chairman of the DMA Awards Committee
Mark Runacus: partner at Karmarama and the chairman of the DMA Awards Committee

As chairman of the DMA Awards Committee I’ve spent many hours of this year locked away, poring over the work of the best and brightest that one-to-one marketing has to offer and I can safely say that 2014 has been a vintage year for the industry.

Below I discuss two of the most interesting trends I noticed this year and highlight three examples of fantastic work that drove the industry forward.

Transforming technology into magic

Technology has long been a valuable asset in any marketer’s box of tricks but this year I felt it was applied with greater subtlety to generate particularly impressive results.

My favourite example of this trend was OgilvyOne’s "the magic of flying" campaign for British Airways.

This campaign was built around an electronic billboard in Piccadilly Circus and when a plane passed overhead, the content on screen was interrupted by a child, who ambled after it. Incredibly, the electronic billboard was able to identify the plane, displaying its destination and flight number on screen.

What I liked most about this campaign was that OgilvyOne didn’t just apply technology for technology’s sake.

Instead the agency used the capabilities of technology to bring a brilliant creative idea into reality. And you have to admire OgilvyOne’s commitment to this idea.

To create a few seconds’ worth of footage it had to integrate a number of complicated technologies, all behind the scenes, and amazingly there were no buffering or faltering images. It all worked seamlessly.

The result was a moment of magic that caused even the most hardnosed businessman to look up in childlike wonder, smile and ask, "How on earth did they do that?"

Clever content tailored to fit

Content is king - how many times have we heard that? The message is clearly starting to sink in as this year I noticed a number of fantastic campaigns with quality content at their core.

For me, the most interesting element of this trend is how agencies are becoming increasingly innovative with their content to overcome the challenge of delivering a consistent experience across all channels.

Wunderman’s "the campaign that Google couldn’t eadRay" for Microsoft, was a particularly great example of how to do this effectively.

What was so impressive about this campaign was that Wunderman not only came up with clever, engaging content, it also tailored content depending on how and where it would be consumed, taking advantage of the functionality of each channel it used.

For example it developed a Pig Latin translator app (downloaded over 1,000 times) especially for smartphones and made use of visual humour in a TV spot that was delivered entirely in Pig Latin (with no subtitles).

As well as making me think and laugh, this campaign also changed my perception of Outlook and that’s no small feat considering I’m a big fan of Gmail.

Driving action with intelligent insight - A trend for 2015?

The campaign that had the greatest impact on me this year was Leo Burnett Change’s "second chance", which demonstrated how valuable insight into human behaviour can be in communications. Consisting of an interactive film and direct mail content, this campaign was based around the simple truth that people judge those who have spent time in prison.

The genius of this campaign was that it exposed the audience’s prejudice against ex-cons without ever pointing the finger.

Instead it allowed the audience to come to this conclusion themselves with innovative triggers such as the "skip advert" button on its film, which demonstrated how quick we are to dismiss ex-cons and ignore their stories.

The copy behind the advertising content was also incredibly powerful – clever, captivating and emotionally engaging – you couldn’t help but be moved by it.

I guess despite the growing importance of integrating innovative technology and embracing new channels, quality copywriting remains as important as ever when it comes to inspiring your audience to take action. A point worth remembering as we look to the future and 2015.

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