Another season of judging the ANA ECHO Awards has come and gone. And, it was a little underwhelming at that.
After 15 years I never know what to expect. In the early days, it was all about creative/copywriting, list and results for direct marketing campaigns. We’d sit in cramped quarters, knee-to-knee with piles of direct marketing campaigns. Letters, self-mailers and expensive 3D packages waiting there, beckoning us to touch, open, read, ooh and ah over the printing, the effects, the sheer creativity of using a unique twist on a hundred-years old technique and entreating us to laugh at clever copy.
But in the years after the Great Recession, the ECHO Awards requirements have changed. They, like the rest of us, have embraced multiple channels including all things digital. Campaigns are mostly presented via iPads, and a portion of the score is still focused on results to prove the worth of the campaigns. It’s been so much fun to see what’s happening in different countries as they find their way with new marketing creative and channels. How did they decide to use Twitter data to light up a dress with “emotion” at a gala? How was someone’s client brave enough to take the risk of sending fake “dirty” underwear or a replica of an ancient instrument of torture to create the very edgy campaigns that would never fly in the U.S.? We got to live vicariously through the bold creativity of countries like Brazil, New Zealand, India and more.
This year by contrast felt, well, safe. It’s not that it was bad marketing. It was good solid, tried-and-true been done before marketing. Is this the stuff of ECHOs past? Maybe not. Will next year be different? Likely. Marketing does go through its cycles. When the economy is good, maybe you don’t have to take risks, maybe you don’t have to try so hard to break through because there’s enough business to go around. Or, in this time-starved and distracted world where everything needs to be faster, developing those ideas that stand out and sing is harder. Those ideas need time, air and thought to grow and develop.
I don’t know for sure, but I know that no two years have been alike and I for one am looking forward to next year’s batch to see what that will bring. Maybe more creativity to inspire us or maybe good enough is good enough. I’m rooting for the former.