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Even then, they are still kind of dopey. Ok, dopey is a bit harsh. At best, they are an imprecise measure of a spectacularly subjective quality, which is, ironically, ‘quality’. At worst, they can totally warp an agency’s culture and turn relatively normal people into career dickheads. Irregardless, it was welcome news to learn that both our China team and our Sydney team were handed silver trophies from the DMA Echo Awards last week.

When we’re talking about demand generation in particular, the Echos are the creative awards you want to win, because of the fairly significant and reasonably rigorous effectiveness component of the judging criteria. The work has to be good, it has to be real and it has to have worked.

What was really interesting was that the two pieces of work were for the same client, reaching the same (basic) audience, entered in the same awards category to produce the same awards result: silver. But the 2 pieces are radically different from each other – in form, strategy and tone.

The Ogilvy China team produced a branded content film called Parallel Paths for the Notes productivity suite, which told the story of two young and hungry salesmen climbing the corporate ladder, and let the Lotus information flow naturally throughout the story. This piece picked up a similar coloured trophy from Spikes just a few weeks earlier.

The Sydney team were tasked with convincing CIOs to outsource parts of the workload and resources they would normally consider to be the domain of ‘their department’. The approach here was to appeal to the audience as people, not roles, and draw a parallel (see what I did there?) with their own workloads – in this case, mowing the lawn.

DMA echo, award, Ogilvy Sydney

It’s hard to ignore the fact that someone just sent you a load of grass.

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The “Grass Pack’ as it became known is particularly interesting, as it’s almost retro in execution: a completely analogue, dimensional mailer. It was particularly effective, I believe, because of the contrarian approach the team took to delivery. The average IT manager’s inbox is overflowing with messages, while their in-office pigeon holes would be lucky to see more than the occasional leaflet. If you want to stand out, move away from the crowd, which is part of the reason why a piece of artificial turf outperformed a dozen email campaigns, combined.

I don’t like to say “I told you so”.

I love to say it. Which is why I’m going to point out that I called Direct Mail “The comeback kid” a couple of years ago, and I think the assertion is still valid. There are a lot of fundamental disciplines that classic DM can offer to digital campaign planning (the importance of the list, the creative opportunities of segmentation and personalisation, the advantage of perceived value versus actual cost and so on).

But if you treat the desk space (rather than the desktop) as media space, the reach and frequency of creative mail can be spectacular, especially if you are selling into a ‘buying cell’ of multiple stakeholders and decision-makers.

I don’t think these pieces are good because they won (I think they are good and they won). We’ve had other great pieces struggle in award shows this year, I believe, partly because the complexity of the solution slowed them down. We’ve even had pieces rejected by awards show entry co-ordinators for being in the wrong category, only to be rejected again in the categories suggested to us by those same co-ordinators, again for being in the wrong category. At that point, you know it’s time to walk away from that particular casino.

Again, congrats to our China team for creating entertainment from email software and to our Sydney team for cleverly moving against the herd.

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

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30,000 people. 743 presentations. 217 parties.  5 days. 1 cherry-red Corvette.

Putting all of that into one presentation was only ever going to offer a skim along the surface. If you’d like to dive in, here are some great places to start:

 

SXSW.com is, as you’d expect, the official home of the event.

 

Videos of the Keynote presentations have just been posted up on the official site, including Seth Priebatsch (SCVNGR), Guy Kawasaki (new book: The Art of Enchantment) and the incendiary Bruce Sterling (highly recommended).

 

The official SXSW Schedule now includes audio recordings of most of the panels and presentations.

The SXSW Trade Show page lists and links all the companies that had a presence in the exhibition hall.

 

The Sydney Ogilvy Mission to SXSW has blog posts, tweets, photos and more.

 

 

The w2fm FM podcast channel on iTunes has the daily podcast wrap-ups and interviews from the event.

 

The SXSW 2011 Slideshare collection hosts many of the official decks and presentations used at the event.

 

OgilvyNotes.com is home to all the ‘visual facilitations’ created by ImageThink

 

SXSW: Everyone wants a piece is a guest post on the new trendspotting blog STW Nextness

The official SXSW Channel on YouTube majors on music but also contains several keynotes and presentations.

CNN’s coverage of SXSW in blog form.

The Guardian’s coverage of SXSW, assisted by the folks at the supremely laid-back Austin Chronicle.

Mashable’s coverage, of both the event and their two-day long party at Buffalo Billiards

A primer on how gamification works from HowStuffWorks.

Marc Ecko’s Unlimted Justice Project, an attempt to outlaw corporal punishment in US highschools.

A food review of Salt Lick, Austin’s famous BBQ restaurant, on the Test With Skewer blog.

Google has certainly copped a lot of flak for its corporate motto “Don’t be evil” and some of the criticism has merit, but I still love the simplicity of the phrase and the boldness of the sentiment.  It demonstrates a lot of respect for the intelligence of the employees and a willingness to give them room to make their own decisions. Also, it’s a very instructive example of the difference between guidance and rules.

We’ve been working towards a guiding philosophy for the sort of marketing we do (or at  least, the sort we’d like to do) that gives us enough room to make decisions while providing a clear direction, or reference point, to check that we’re making progress.

And the closest we’ve got so far is this: “Be useful”

If truth be told, it started out as “Don’t be useless” which we liked as a both homage and self-directed threat. But we had a bout of the positives and tried to make it more about what you should do, rather than what you can’t.

But what does it mean? Take a look at a lot of traditional marketing (the ads, the catalogues, the mailers, the webpages and emails), and try to measure it’s usefulness. How much simpler does it make your life (or just your day)? How much did you learn from it? How much more do you know now than you did before you read or listened to that piece of marketing? What can you do now that you couldn’t do before? How much time or effort has it saved you? If you had to pay for that piece of marketing, how much would you be willing to hand over?

FWIW, I think this is particularly important when answering briefs that describe the audience as “Time-poor” (ands that’s just about everyone, as far as I can tell). If they don;t have much time for anything, they certainly don’t have time to spend on stuff that isn’t useful to them.

These are pretty tough questions for a piece of marketing collateral to answer. But what if we stopped creating marketing and started building something else on behalf of our clients? Something that helped people, that gave them information, or a tool or an experience, or wisdom? Or anything really, as long as it was useful.

We’ve been playing at the edges of this for a while – our Live Event Matchmaking effort for IBM’s Pulse events was a step, but we believe we’ve moved even closer with a recent campaign for IBM’s sponsorship of the Australian Open 2011 tennis tournament. We took a look at all the data that IBM generate  from the action on the court, married it up with all th open-source data that fans generate on the web and presented it back as a data-powered window on the Open experience:

Yes, it is marketing, but we’re hoping that it is useful marketing. And we’re going to spend a lot more of our time trying to figure out how to do more of it. Let me know if you’re on a similar path.

We absolutely believe it does – now we have the stats and the case study to prove it.

In a nutshell, the task was to get a range of IT professionals to attend a large, 2 day live event covering a diverse range of topics and products in Sydney. The customer insights revealed that IT professionals actually attend events to meet up with their peers and colleagues – but they can’t really use that as their justification.

So we used this insight to develop a campaign value proposition for the event: “Meet the people who can help you plan your future infrastructure.”

This is classic w2fm thinking, making it incredibly easy for the audience to work out and articulate what is in this event for them. So far so good, but the real work came when the team decided to apply the value prop not just to the communications, but to the design of the event itself. Take a look at the video to see how the team executed ANZ Pulse 2010 event, and the results it generated:

In the case of IBM’s Pulse 2010 event, the results were very rewarding for everyone on the team, but it was also really satisfying for us here at w2fm to see a customer-driven value proposition executed so well  – and then to return such amazing results.