Letter: Rieck Off Base in Award Criticisms

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I have read Dean Rieck for as long as his columns have been appearing in <I>DM News<I>, and, as a fellow copywriter, I have always been able to relate to what he has to say. Obviously, he is a direct marketing devotee, an experienced practitioner who swears by the principles of his craft. And for that, he deserves kudos. After all, there is nothing this industry needs more of than people, like Rieck, who are willing and able to preach what they practice.

However, I felt his column, ("6 Secrets for Winning Creative Awards," Jan. 17) was unfairly critical of awards shows and betrayed his provincialism, even if he was half-kidding. In this column, Rieck seems to imply that good creative and a good response rate are mutually exclusive, when nothing could be further from the truth. In his mock list of six ways "to create print ads that impress your colleagues, win pointy-plastic prizes and give you a well-deserved break from all that pesky response," he sarcastically suggests that you should "start with a concept" and "feature stunning photography."

Experienced direct marketers know that nothing should come before researching your audience or turning features into benefits. But without a compelling concept and/or visual element to call attention to your ad, the possibility exists that those "powerful words" both you and I write will simply get lost in the clutter. The fact is, advertising is converging rapidly with direct marketing -- or vice versa -- and those "typical agency types," as Rieck refers to them, are not so typical anymore. Any copywriter worth his or her salt nowadays knows that a savvy client cares more about a good response than a good impression.

There are many awards shows in the DM industry, and as far I know, all of them put results before creative in their lists of judging criteria. The New England Direct Marketing Association holds an awards show every year -- and if you don't submit specific results along with your entry, you don't even qualify to win a "pointy-plastic prize." It's that simple.

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