Judging The 2010 DMA Awards

In my role as a member of the DMA’s Email Marketing Council, one of my responsibilities is the annual judging of the DMA Awards.

The process kicks off by looking at the submissions and assessing their success in three key areas: audience / strategy, creativity and results. Once scored, the top three are established and we focus on these in more depth, specifically discussing the pros and cons of each.  Finally, we all commit to a winner via secret ballot and the final decision is made.

It’s a fascinating process and really allows us all to hone in on exactly what makes a great email marketing campaign. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts based on this year’s judging.


It has been two years since I last played a part in the process and a number of trends quickly stood out.

When it comes to the quality of submissions, there were a handful of truly exceptional examples that were leading the field and showing what can be achieved with email marketing. This is exactly what the awards are designed to expose and promote, so it was a great affirmation of the values we believe in and the proof of their execution in the real world.

Testing 123

However, it was surprising to see so many entries with little focus on any kind of testing or the results such a process can deliver. Instead, the majority simply laid out the idea, the campaign and the final result.

In an industry where subscribers’ expectations and preferences for email marketing can vary so wildly, proper testing and tracking of campaigns and variations is a key element in achieving success.  In the last two years, it seems as though nominees are still failing to take this on board in their email marketing activities.


Another aspect which some entries struggled with was the differentiation between email marketing and eCRM, with some entries being put forward for the wrong category.  It’s a shame to see this confusion still widespread after two years. I’m hoping that both I and the rest of the DMA’s Email Marketing Council can help with the structure of the email awards and the category wording to help increase the accuracy of next year’s submissions.

100 vs 110%

The results section of many entries demonstrated just how spectacularly an email marketing strategy can pay off considering the alternative cost of other marketing activities. In many cases, companies were turning to the technology for the first time and when the winners are announced in December, you will see that the returns described are impressive enough to confirm what us ‘old-school’ email marketers have known for a long time!

However, the sad counter-point to this was just how much more value companies could be gaining with a little more concentration and focus on long-term strategy. Our hope is that those who showed promise this year will be back with a vengeance to take their next steps and mature their strategy for 2011. At the same time, it’s still great to see that new companies and brands are starting to wake up to the benefits of email marketing and dip their toes in the water.

While we can’t tell you the winner just yet, for me, there was certainly a standout entry from a company that should be very proud of themselves!  Be sure to keep an eye out around the 8th of December for the results.

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