Top Echo Goes to Spanish Agency CP Interactive for Helping Save a Life

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Spanish agency and BBDO affiliate CP Interactive walked away last night with the Direct Marketing Association's Diamond Echo award for an Amnistia Internacional campaign that saved a Nigerian woman from death by stoning.


The Madrid agency had little time to rouse public support for Safiya Husseini through a campaign called "Amnisty for Safiya." The woman was charged with adultery for bearing a son outside her marriage, even though the child was the result of a rape by a relative of her estranged husband.


"The main challenge was that Amnistia had only 15 days to launch the campaign to save Safiya and to collect the signatures to influence the Nigerian government and judges," said Laura Blanco, general manager of CP Interactive.


CP Interactive's direct mail piece was a bag with a letter and stone targeting opinion leaders in media, universities and street traffic in Spain. CP sibling Contrapunto produced the mail piece. The general public was reached with an amnistiaporsafiya.org site, viral e-mail and direct response television, radio and fax.


This outreach resulted in more than 600,000 signatures from the Internet, 60,000 from letters and faxes and upward of 40,000 from inbound telephone calls. All this from a pro bono effort valued at less than $50,000.


All collected signatures were sent to the Nigerian ambassador in Spain, which accounted for 65 percent of the appeals. The Spanish government also weighed in, condemning Husseini's proposed execution by her fellow Nigerians.


As a result of the campaign, Nigeria decided against the execution.


This win may give the agency a sense of deja vu. Last year, its CP Communicacion/Proximity parent won the Diamond Echo for Sony Espana. The agency garnered a 100 percent response rate on two mailings promoting a Sony TV closed-circuit digital techniques course for corporate security managers.


In all, the CP agency offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Madrid; Barcelona; and Lisbon, Portugal, took home seven Echo awards this year, up from five in 2001.


The awards were handed out at the DMA's 85th Annual Conference & Exhibition. Kevin Nealon of "Saturday Night Live" fame hosted the event.


Like last year, the 2001-02 awards had a heavily international flavor. The DMA received 503 international entries out of 1,113 submissions, with the United States taking home 38 Echos out of the 83 gold, silver and bronze honors. The rest went to agencies from 14 countries. For gold awards, the United States topped with six. Britain and Norway received two each. Argentina, Brazil, New Zealand and Spain each won one gold Echo.


Candidates for the Echo are judged on response results, marketing strategy and creative components. The awards are classified by consumer, business-to-business or both. There were 12 industry categories this year: automotive, business services, communications/utilities, consumer services, direct response sales, financial products and services, information technology, manufacturing and distribution, nonprofit, packaged goods, publishing and retailing. IT was added this year.


The 10 advertising media categories were alternative media, catalog, dimensional mail, DRTV/radio commercials, flat mail, infomercial, Internet/interactive media, print, multimedia/integrated media and telephone.


Wendy Riches, one of the judges, said she noticed that the Internet was getting more integrated with mainstream direct marketing.


"That does not mean that the level of creativity in interactive marketing has dropped," said Riches, New York-based president of D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles' marketing services group. "On the other hand, the creative level is going up as the discipline gets more settled and what people are doing makes sense. [Also,] given the addition of the Internet, I might have expected to see fewer three-dimensional pieces. My impression is, I actually saw more, and some were highly creative."


That was not the impression of G. Stephen Dapper, chairman of FFwd, a Hawkeye advertising and direct marketing agency in New York. A judge in the final round, Dapper said European creative was stronger than the United States. Also, BTB entries were better than business to consumer, again a function of bigger budgets for the former.


"I just found that the U.S. creative was very inconsistent and relatively dull," he said. "We've made these great strides in modeling and data analytics, but we seem to forget the power of the creativity."


Leading the U.S. pack this year was MRM Partners Worldwide, New York, which won 12 Echos for entries from its offices in New York; Los Angeles; Oslo, Norway; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Sao Paolo, Brazil.


MRM doubled its haul from last year. Among the agency's honors this year is the USPS Gold Mailbox Echo for client Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Bridgewater, NJ. Called "Living With It," the campaign used dimensional mail to promote Taxotere as a chemotherapy drug for women with recurrent breast cancer. "Living With It" itself is an ongoing free support program for women with this life-threatening disease.


MRM was tasked to motivate women to actively participate in their breast cancer care and increase involvement in treatment decisions. MRM could not have found a better person to write the campaign: agency copywriter Hope Manville, who suffers from recurrent breast cancer.


"It's not very dark work," said Richard Eber, executive vice president and chief creative officer worldwide at MRM. "It's light and it's lively. It's got a certain amount of whimsy."


In essence, Aventis needed to educate women about Taxotere and motivate them to request the $1,975 regimen from their oncologists. These doctors were used to prescribing a rival treatment, Taxol.


Last year, Taxotere became another blockbuster drug for Aventis. Sales leaped to $1 billion, up 34.8 percent over 2000, when no direct-to-patient program existed. The largest gain was seen in the fourth quarter, when the campaign was launched, rising 42.5 percent to $278 million.


The winner of this year's Henry Hoke Award for the most courageous solution to a difficult sales and marketing problem also had its work cut out. FMS Direct, Tarzana, CA, took that honor for client Monaco Financial LLC, a Newport Beach, CA, coin dealer.


New in the market, Monaco was going against the tide in coin collecting, which is typically most robust in boom periods. But the economic slowdown in 2001 made life difficult for Monaco. In such times, coin collecting slips down the list of priorities for all but diehard collectors.


FMS' task was to target upscale collectors of high-end rare coins, rich consumers looking into coins as investments and rare-coin dealers with still-active buying customer lists. The product being peddled was the "Ship of Gold" California Gold Rush treasure coins priced between $200 and $8 million. These coins were recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Central America.


Tactical execution included discounts, free catalogs, telemarketing, national cable television, radio, national newspapers, e-mail and direct mail. Different product and pricing offers were tested throughout the program. Central to these tactics and media executions was the creative strategy. The goal was to make the California Gold Rush tangible to consumers.


The agency used videotape footage and snapshots of piles of gold ingots and coins recovered from the S.S. Central America, which sunk in 1857. Drawings of the sinking ship also were used. The marketing aimed to entice people into owning a piece of history at affordable prices.


The campaign paid off. While most coin dealers' sales plummeted last year, Monaco's rose 81.5 percent to $22 million. Average lead cost dropped 32.3 percent in 2001 to $44.51. Revenue per customer doubled, and return on investment -- sales divided by direct advertising costs -- was 2,862 percent, up 50 percent year-over-year.


DRTV played a key role in the selling process. FMS used seven spots, each 60 seconds.


"The main challenge was that there were no past advertising campaigns that were successful in the numismatics and rare-coins category specifically for TV," said Rodney Buchser, president of FMS Direct. "Our biggest challenge was to make television advertising effective."


Another prestigious Echo went to msdbm/SourceLink, Westwood, CA, for work on roots rock singer Lucinda Williams' "Essence" album, which was produced by Universal Music Group/Lost Highway Records. The agency won for the Echo Digital Award for the campaign that applied new technology to execute proven direct marketing principles, adhering at the same time to the DMA's privacy policy.


An Internet campaign came to the artist's aid. The main challenge was to identify fans of Williams. Msdbm/SourceLink began with a small house file. To expand it, the agency targeted specific direct and indirect sources based on a profile of her fan base.


Campaign media included several outbound e-mails, Web microsites and grassroots marketing. The campaign drew 26,718 responders and sales of 28,800 CDs out of the 197,000 names initially targeted through music e-mail address lists, magazine lists and the in-house file. The house list yielded a 30.96 percent response even though it was 2 years old. Other lists gave a 2.46 percent response, a feat for cold lists.


In all, the campaign was instrumental in generating sales of $184,674 in "Essence" CDs. This was directly attributable to the e-mails and Web sites. Also, the campaign expanded Williams' fan base file 960 percent. To top it all, the campaign cost only $100,000.


"The Lucinda Williams campaign served as a baseline CRM model that could be leveraged across other labels within the Universal Music Group," said Jennie Lha, vice president of marketing and business development at msdbm/SourceLink.


Yet, for all the encomiums showered on these candidates, FFwd's Dapper was still "disappointed as I walked around the room" judging entries. The low emphasis on creativity, perhaps because of an increasingly risk-averse ad environment, may come to haunt direct marketing.


"At some point, you'll see marketing expenditure shifting into other potential disciplines, and I do think that in the long run the Internet will provide one of the strongest revenue streams for direct marketers," Dapper said. "I think you're going to see mail becoming less important and the Net and in-store communications on the rise."


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