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The Mark Awards — Feed the Fire

2/13/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

As the incoming chair of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing’s Mark Awards, I asked myself how I could best build on the legacy of previous chairs. In particular, I reflected on the collective creative spark within our industry.

Indeed, the past 21 years of the awards (the last 13 in partnership with Multichannel News or, previously, Cablevision magazine) have demonstrated the evolution of remarkable vitality and ingenuity in the cable business, as well as cable marketing.

Cable has taken a leadership position in the entertainment industry and is looked to for innovation, to break barriers and to set new standards. It’s trendy, edgy, and increasingly envied and honored.

In turn, cable marketing reflects all those attributes, as much, if not more, than any other part of our business. Without a doubt, our collective marketing campaigns are the most prolific and widest reaching projection of our image. That’s a fundamental reason I believe the Mark Awards are one of the most important ways we recognize excellence in our industry.

As we prepare for the 22nd annual Mark Awards competition, we’re taking steps to further enhance their prestige to better reflect their importance.

Last year, we began the process of narrowing the categories, leading to fewer Gold awards, and we continued that trend even more rigorously this year. We’re planning to recruit more senior, highly-respected marketing executives to judge the final entries.

This year, we will continue to develop a more polished and elaborate awards presentation at the CTAM Summit. And finally, we’re practicing what we preach, having embarked on our own rebranding effort, developing an integrated image and identity for the awards.

I should mention here that all of these changes reflect the collective wisdom of a very active Mark Awards committee, which consists of marketing executives from cable companies, networks, agencies and suppliers dedicated to upgrading, updating and upholding the competition throughout the process. They deserve much of the credit for our success.

WHY ENTER?

There are many valuable reasons for you to make it a priority to enter the Mark Awards. Speaking from experience, it can be a morale booster, creative stimulant and management tool.

The internal selection process is an opportunity to evaluate and revisit a full year of your corporate efforts. It gives members of your department a chance to take note of their collective accomplishments and build team spirit. It’s an invitation for management to acknowledge their pride and appreciation for quality work. It spurs team members to challenge themselves and each other on future projects. Now, I want to get a bit personal. For those of you with fire in your belly (you know who you are), there’s another reason to enter the Mark Awards. This is a truly competitive contest, where the playing field is leveled and the outcome is never certain. Fierce rivals meet toe-to-toe. Newcomers challenge superpowers. Strategy outranks style. Creativity trumps deep pockets. Yes, I admit it. I have the fire inside. I can tell you with great pride that winning a Mark Award feels terrific.

In 2003, the marketing team at National Geographic Channel won more gold Mark Awards than any other single network. It was the second time NGC achieved that distinction, even though we had been on the air a little more than two years. Winning those awards was validation that our strategy, sweat and chutzpah were on target. It is still a source of motivation that drives our team in everything we do.

I think our new Mark Awards tag line, “The exhilaration of flawless execution is surpassed only by recognition,” very much captures this thrill of victory.

KEEP THE FIRES BURNING

But wait, there’s still another reason to enter the Mark Awards — perhaps it’s the most important reason. No matter how our industry evolves, our marketing campaigns will always be the front lines in our competitive battles, regardless of whether we’re competing for viewers, customers or ad dollars. Mark Award entries are submitted in a diverse range of categories representing critical initiatives that impact our ultimate success as businesses.

Clearly, there is value in identifying the select few to be recognized as the best of the best.

Nearly 1,000 entries will be judged, but only 5% will be honored with gold. The Mark Awards help us raise the bar together — and helps the fire inside all of us burn hotter.

So, why enter the Mark Awards? It’s very simple. No other industry competition focuses on every aspect of cable marketing: Strategy. Creative. Risk. Commitment. Implementation. Results.

I think our mission statement sums it up: To recognize outstanding achievement in the marketing of cable and programming for the purpose of raising the standard of excellence and promoting learning among ourselves.

There are two more entry deadlines. You have until Feb. 15 to enter without paying late fees. If you miss that deadline, you still have until Feb. 25 with a $25 per entry late fee. That’s a small price to pay to feed that fire!

For details, visit the Mark Web site (www.markawards.com).

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