The second annual Strategic Mailing Partnership (SMP) Awards held in London on 28 September demonstrated increasing awareness of and engagement in the direct mail sector, plus the growing importance of sustainability and attracting young talent, with winners across multiple disciplines.

The overall Platinum award went to programmatic mail specialist Paperplanes for a campaign for Bower Collective home products, with Golden Envelopes going to Huddersfield-based DM provider Propack, Bath-based advertising agency Join The Dots and Edinburgh-based direct marketing agency Dragonfly (for two different campaigns), whose account manager Ellie McBeath also won the Bright Futures award. Go Inspire took a Highly Commended and Webmart won the Sustainability award.

The event, which was hosted by comedian Ellie Taylor, also saw a panel discussion and ‘fireside chat’ with various mail industry figures.

SMP chair Lucy Swanston told Digital Printer that the awards event had doubled in terms of attendance since its inaugural outing in 2022, with an increase in entries and participating companies, which ranged from print providers and print management companies to creative agencies. The new categories added this year, Bright Futures and Sustainability drew high numbers of entries, with Ms Swanston noting that, as with the Printing Charity’s Rising Stars awards, there was a very high proportion of female entrants – reaching 100% in the case of the Bright Futures category.

Ms Swanston attributed the growth to both higher awareness and an increased appetite from big brands to work with award-winning suppliers. Acknowledging predictions of an overall drop in mail volumes for 2023, she noted, ‘Providers recognise the importance of accolades, which help their marketing to their customers. The purpose is ongoing marketing.’

She further noted that print was still in the top five media channels by spend, driven in part by a rise in sales promotions amidst the steep cost-of-living and energy rises and cited the received wisdom that brands who continue to market through recessions emerge stronger and with higher brand equity than those which don’t. Against this she noted that rising supply costs would also impact direct marketing spend and reaffirmed the case for considering print’s attention metrics against digital channels, pointing out also that, ‘I can’t see anyone in digital media working out their carbon footprint’, something that the SMP has put some effort into as part of pitching print as a sustainable circular economy channel.

As a general call to join the SMP, Ms Swanston said, ‘Anyone with a digital printer can print direct mail; the mailing can be outsourced. While the SMP board members are the big national and international players, there is a whole tail of SME printers who could benefit from this knowledge and expertise. There is a huge community – approaching 650 members now – to lean into, and the big players are happy to help.’