McCann, OgilvyOne Win The Quest for Top Echoes

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A campaign comparing the quest for the Denali, GMC's newest sport utility vehicle, to a quest to conquer the mountain it's named after and a campaign that lured Dutch tourists to Great Britain by sending them the scrapbook from a fictional character's vacation took top honors at the Direct Marketing Association's 1998 International Echo Awards.

The awards were announced Oct. 11 at the 81st Annual Conference & exhibition in San Francisco. Fifty-five direct marketing campaigns from agencies in nine countries were recognized.

The Quest for Denali -- a four-part mail campaign created by McCann Relationship Marketing, New York, which sold close to 2,000 trucks through the mail before the trucks were even available at dealerships for customers to take a test drive -- received the Diamond Echo for being the top direct response advertising campaign among all entries.

The USPS Gold Mailbox award, given for the most innovative use of direct mail, was given to a campaign created for the British Tourist Authority by OgilvyOne Worldwide, Amsterdam. Prospective Dutch vacationers found the scrapbook of fictional character Frank de Jonge's British vacation so engaging they actually wrote letters to de Jonge.

The campaign promoting GMC's new Denali truck is particularly notable because of the obstacles it overcame to achieve its goals. When the GMC Yukon was released, some customers waited more than 10 months to receive their trucks. For the Denali, which is the Native American name for Mount McKinley, the plan was to offer existing customers the first opportunity to receive the truck without having to wait.

The campaign was launched not only before trucks were available at dealerships, but before many of the details about specific features were solidified. Although the assignment was for a campaign to be launched no later than July of last year, with orders expected by October, there initially were only four photographs of the truck available, with others not expected until late summer. To overcome these obstacles, McCann focused on appealing to the egos of existing car owners.

"We told them this was a new truck and we were offering them the opportunity to be one of the first ones to get one. Everyone wants a vehicle more unusual than what everyone else is driving," said Richard Eber, executive creative director and senior vice president at McCann. "It had to be an impact mailing. It had to be a strong delivery. There are a lot of new trucks out there, and we had to keep them out of the market until October, when they could order."

The campaign was mailed to 92,000 Yukon and Suburban owners who had owned their vehicle for about five years. It began with a short mailer that explained that "Like its namesake, this Denali is not easily obtainable," and included a five-question survey to assess customer interest.

Although the agency had planned to continue with two streams -- one for moderately and one for strongly interested prospects -- interest was strong enough that they eliminated the moderately interested category. The campaign then proceeded with three more mailings that meticulously compared the mountain and the truck, using interviews from climbers who had actually climbed Mt. McKinley.

The agency used the mailings to describe different features of the Denali piece by piece, thereby prolonging the mystery about the truck and accommodating that its features still were being finalized. For example, in the third mailing, a journal entry in which a climber described the bitter cold endured in the trek up the mountain, is countered on the facing page with a description of the car's heated leather seats.

One of the pieces included climbing rope and another included a compass as attention-grabbers that continued the campaign's theme.

As a result of the campaign, 1,974 orders were placed for the truck, which costs an average of $45,000. Those figures represent close to 20 percent of the 10,000 trucks General Motors was planning to build for its first year in operation.

Like the quest for Denali, the mailing created by OgilvyOne Worldwide, Amsterdam, for the British Tourist Authority, also began with a survey and included several stages of mailings. The 37,000 people who received the first mailing had requested information on travel in Great Britain in response to 1997 magazine ads, but the British Tourist Authority wanted more information.

"We asked where and what part of the country they wanted to travel to, when they liked to travel, information about their educational and financial background and about whether they had kids," said Kevin Power, manager of The Netherlands for the British Tourist Authority. "We built up a profile of the database from the answers to these questions."

The initial qualifier piece took the form of a letter from Power. The second piece, which included brochures on parts of the country the prospective travelers has expressed interest in and vouchers for ferry rides across the channel, also was a letter from him. However, in the second letter, Power suggested that readers keep their eyes on their mailboxes as someone else would be sending them information soon. What followed was a colorful mock scrapbook from Frank de Jonge describing his travels in the part of Great Britain in which the reader had expressed an interest.

"We wanted to get to the moment of booking. A lot of Dutch want to go to Great Britain, but in the end when the weather is bad they end up going to France or Spain," said Jos Krützmann, creative director at OgilvyOne. "For many Dutch, it's hard to imagine what it must be like to travel there. We depicted the best ways to go and the things that seem most important and most interesting to see to help make the choice easier."

Using their knowledge of the Dutch and their travel habits, the campaign described things that tourists could see at their own pace.

"The Dutch like to bring their own cars. They like touring things on their own," Powers said. "They're very independent that way."

The campaign was structured in two voices -- Power's and de Jonge's -- because agency officials thought if de Jonge offered the ferry vouchers and mentioned specials it would take away from the fun, light-hearted nature of his message, Krützmann said. The agency worked to keep de Jonge's message real by using real addresses of hotels and pubs. It even contacted the establishments that were mentioned and asked them to play along if anyone called inquiring about de Jonge.

The initial qualifying mailing received a 33 percent response rate, Power said. It was difficult to measure how many people actually booked trips because there were many ways that travel plans could be made, he said, though ferry companies that had helped contribute to campaign noted that some trips were taken using vouchers. In addition, a Dutch auditing service that conducted a random survey of people who had received the mailing found that more people read the mailing and that those who read it spent more time on it than is customary for campaigns with similar objectives.

In the most unusual measure of the impact of the mailing, the British Tourist Authority began receiving suggestions of other interesting sites to visit in Great Britain and were addressed to de Jonge.

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