What the DMA awards mean to me

As an industry, marketing surely wins the award for most award ceremonies. It seems as if every other week presents another opportunity to take part in a night of mutual appreciation and boozy back patting. I’m glad that the industry has so much to celebrate but I can’t help but wonder how many of these awards mean anything?

A truly important award has the respect of the industry it’s judging and the authority to benchmark excellence. These awards present a valuable opportunity for an industry to come together to reflect on how far it’s come and share knowledge and experience. If you’re lucky to win one of these awards it will have a truly transformative effect on your career and your business. The list of awards of this calibre within marketing is short, but I believe the DMA Awards is on it.

Part of the reason I say this is because I have experienced the effect winning an award can have on a career. When I won my first award, I was an inexperienced account manager and in many ways I was still finding my feet. In fact, my team and I had struggled to deliver the very campaign that went on to win the award. And although the end result pleased the client, the whole process damaged my self-esteem and I was glad to move onto another project. Many months later, when the campaign won a DMA award I was shocked and deeply honoured. The win inspired me to redouble my efforts at work and gave me confidence in my abilities. I often wonder that if I hadn’t won, would I still be in direct marketing at all.

It wasn’t the fact that I had been recognised that inspired me, it was who had recognised me. The panel of judges for the DMA awards consisted of leading industry experts and with their approval I felt truly welcomed into the direct marketing community. The panel has only grown more illustrious and in 2013 it consisted of more than 300 experts that made up over 36 juries. What hasn’t changed in the intervening years is the integrity of the judging process. Although there is healthy debate amongst the judges about who should win each award, voting is carried out in secret to ensure that each judge’s decision doesn’t influence another’s. This way, no one knows who will win each award until the night of the ceremony.

The DMA takes its awards seriously because it takes industry standards seriously. And it doesn’t just want to set them; it wants to raise them as well. This is why the judging process is so rigorous; the panel needs to ensure they are highlighting only the very best work so the rest of the industry knows what to strive for.

To give members of the industry a clearer idea of how they can raise their game, this year the association is asking judges to provide some written feedback on the campaigns they’ve assessed and to comment more broadly on the state of the industry. Their views will then be published in 2015 as a qualitative assessment on the state of the nation from a one to one to millions point of view. This should provide all direct marketing practitioners with valuable insights which can be applied to their own activities. It will also give those starting out in the industry a fantastic opportunity to learn from some of the best minds in direct marketing and in my opinion; this is what award programmes should be all about. What a fitting next step for an awards programme already well worth celebrating.

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