Bennett Kuhn Varner Snares Echo Effort

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The Direct Marketing Association tapped Bennett Kuhn Varner, Atlanta, as its agency on a pro bono campaign for the 75th anniversary of its annual International Echo Awards.


BKV succeeds Foote, Cone & Belding, whose New York office last year worked on the marketing effort to attract entries for the direct industry's most prestigious awards. The Southern shop also will handle the Web site at www.dma-echo.org, a task it was entrusted in 1999.


"We're trying to drive people to the Web in order to get the forms filled out," said Brent Kuhn, president of BKV.


The DMA account joins a roster of BKV clients like Cingular, Dirt Devil, Black & Decker's Applica and Make-A-Wish Foundation. The agency gets 40 percent of its billings from direct response television work.


BKV already has conceived a tagline to commemorate the Echo's diamond jubilee: "Pinnacle of Recognition." It will be on all marketing materials.


The agency will target an estimated 18,000 names in the DMA database. These firms previously entered the Echo competition. The DMA also is eyeing smaller agencies with staffs under five, tacking on another mailing of 6,000 to 7,000.


"They're really creative shops, and we haven't gotten these types of entries in the past," Kuhn said.


In February, 25,000 postcards will drop, followed a month later by a letter package to the same audience. E-mail campaigns will intersperse these drops at biweekly intervals through the April 15 submission deadline.


Online, BKV will create a new symbol, including a diamond and a circle with words identifying Echo's 75th anniversary. The logo will feature on the Echo site as well as other marketing materials.


The next Echo awards take place at the DMA's fall show Oct. 17-20 in New Orleans. They reward campaigns for outstanding response, marketing strategy and creative. Entry fees largely fund the awards along with a few sponsorships, including one from the U.S. Postal Service.


Campaigns produced, executed and evaluated from Jan. 1, 2003, to March 31, 2004, are eligible for this year's (2004) prizes. Foreign creative samples must have English translations.


Last year, 57 agencies -- individual offices submitting entries -- won from a field of 1,034 entries, down from 1,113 in 2002. Entries from foreign agencies were slightly higher, 511, versus 2002's 503. U.S. agencies clearly have cut back on participation.


"The challenge is always to try and keep building the number of entries," Kuhn said. "I think the 75th anniversary gives us a more-than-normal firepower. This is a real landmark and also our foray into trying to get more business from smaller agencies."


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