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SAN FRANCISCO-Trahan, Burden & Charles Direct won the Direct Marketing Association's Diamond Echo award for a campaign that generated impressive response rates but ultimately proved unsuccessful.

The Baltimore agency, asked to help woo a National Football League expansion franchise and return professional football to its hometown, created a multitier mailing and TV spot designed to influence the NFL selection committee with evidence of local demand.

"We were preselling seats in a stadium that didn't exist for a football team we didn't have," said an agency executive.

With an $85,000 budget, the effort generated 22,000 responses, a 7.2% response rate, to the TV spot offering club seats and an 88% response rate to 100 mailings that included an autographed football and offered corporate skyboxes.

But Baltimore didn't get the team; expansion franchises instead went to Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla.

The DMA's Gold Mailbox award, honoring the most effective mail campaign, went to O&M Direct, Frankfurt, for a mailing package that resembled a folded shirt, meant to impress the garment industry with client Lufthansa Cargo's ability to ship hanging garment containers.

As usual, O&M won the most awards: Nine offices took home 12 Echos, including five gold awards. Trahan Burden had four golds.

Among other gold winners:

O&M's Amsterdam office for a series of creative mailings sent to Dutch attendees at the Cannes Advertising Festival, promoting the industry on behalf of PTT Post Mediaservice, the Dutch post office.

Wunderman Worldwide, Toronto, for an Apple Computer mailing aimed at winning over Macintosh-averse accountants.

Schell/Mullaney, New York, for Computer Associates' "Free Money" software giveaway, with 2 million copies of personal-finance software sent.

Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel, London, for a loyalty-building program aimed at 4,000 Range Rover owners. Sixty-five percent of recipients attended a marketing event, and more than 1,000 bought a new Range Rover within six months of the campaign.

This year's Echos contest resulted in 33 gold awards presented at the association's annual convention.

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