A direct view from down under, pt. 2 of 2
From Australia's track record in Cannes' direct category to many other international advertising and marketing shows, you'll more than likely find Australia sitting somewhere near the top, if not at the top of the final tally in the DM categories. The same goes for Patrick Collister's Directory mag. There's pretty much always Australian work showcased in each edition.
Australia doesn't mind having a go at others, but most importantly, we don't mind having a go at ourselves. A lot of our work has charm, but also a dash of cheekiness to it. The old Virgin Mobile “Jason Donovan” campaign springs to mind here. Overall, we're funny bastards. Nothing is sacred and as a nation we generally have more fun than others, I think. Australians just do things and we worry about the consequences later, and that philosophy comes through in the way we market and advertise.
That being said, being PC is becoming the norm, and I don't think that's a great thing. Marketers, take heed: We're not Americans, Europeans or Asians; we're Aussies and we like having the freedom to show our worldly neighbours that we are the knockabout laid back bogan of the world with a culture of our own. Ironically, the world looks to us and wants a piece of that. Thank you, Oprah.
So, what I did I see and learn at this year's AWARD Awards? Here are five observations:
Promo category, or lack thereof
I love the promo category; I think it's where the most exciting and engaging work is being showcased these days. But when it comes to direct in Australia, promo gets lugged into the “Integrated Solutions” category more often than not. This is where the question of “But is it direct?” continually raises its head. A lot of ideas don't follow through with the data captured to qualify them as “direct,” but hopefully that data will work its way into the next big idea that we'll hopefully be awarding next year. Personally, I think we need a “Direct Promotion Category,” as too many good ideas are losing out to others that truly define “Integrated Solutions”, and that's a shame.
“We had a Facebook page” doesn't define social media to me. I saw a cool twitter idea for Levi's jeans a couple years back at the Australian Direct Marketing Awards, but nothing really stood out at AWARDs this year. I guess the closest was the “Canon Photochains” idea in Australia; the “Lola Techie” idea from Bayan Telecommunications in the Philippines; and, from China, the “Red Flag” concept for The North Face. There were others, but no truly memorable thoughts that changed the way we use or define the way social media can break new ground.
What is the next big thing in DM?
Again, nothing to write home about really. You could wheel out the talk about user generated content again (there was a cool take on this with “It's no picnic” for Cadbury - Australian) though you also could argue that you've seen this style of marketing before. Getting back to The North Face “Red Flag” idea, geo-tagging played a pivotal role in the overall campaign, which was refreshing. I saw some technology in New York where your brochure can play footage via a small screen insert that's activated when you open it, kind of like those musical cards we've all seen, but on steroids. Cool, but just another gimmick, I think, though if it's used cleverly it might be of use. I'm not really one for technology for the sake of technology; the razzle-dazzle can never outweigh the power of a simple idea.
Presentation boards & case study movies
If you don't have one or the other, or haven't done them “properly” then you're already behind the eight ball, let alone stand a good chance of taking home anything worth polishing. Though in saying that my joint-CD and I did have a piece that made it to finalist stage without a board (it was an old-school Telegram for Telstra so we kept everything old-school in presentation) that I actually think helped get it to finalist stage. But I don't think we'll be polishing anything. Maybe we should've organized a board? At the other end of the scale is the perfectly laid out presentation board, but with no sample pack: FAIL. And the last thing I have seen of note recently was a case study movie for a Dimensional Mail pack. Nothing advanced within the pack itself to warrant a movie, but there you go. It's all about presentation.
Flat Direct Mail is a waning category
Is it boring? An envelope sitting alongside its Integrated, Ambient and Dimensional Mail brothers sure does make it look that way. But in saying that I truly think Flat Direct Mail is one of the truest forms of traditional DM and it's up to the creatives of the world to keep its flag flying high. A brief for an envelope pack can and should be a creative challenge any team should be up for cracking.
So, to sum up. This is just a direct view from down under, from a country that more often than not sits on the top, written by an art-based creative director who clearly doesn't know what DM is anymore. But then again, that's the beauty of direct marketing: Even though the principles stay the same, our game continues to change and that's exciting. Who wants to go around the block with the same old girl when there's a new one in town itching to show you a good time?
Being direct, I'll put up my hand and say, “I want some bloody action, please!” Bring it on.