This year's DMA Royal Mail Awards attracted an unprecedented 800 entries from agencies large and small, proving that recession or no recession, the direct marketing industry is in rude health.
Such enthusiasm is noteworthy for two reasons. The DM industry has a plethora of awards, against which the DMA Royal Mail's event has to compete. Secondly, in a bid to make its awards stand out, the DMA last year made some initially unpopular changes to its judging process.
Chief among these changes was a strengthening of the judging criteria to make an award more desirable. Gold winners had to show excellence in the areas of strategy, creativity and results and, if they fell short, judges were no longer obliged to present a gold award at all. Last year, many agencies felt cheated when just 13 golds out of a possible 31 were awarded.
But, according to Mark Nohr, the chairman of the DMA's judging panel for the past two years and former managing director of Lion, a more rigorous judging process was the necessary riposte to criticism that the awards had become annual backslapping event.
"There's some great work here that really passes the 'I wish I'd done that' test," says Nohr. Winning entries were particularly strong in terms of targeting and creative solutions, he adds.