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Elevation Awards case study: How MerkleB2B won Gold for ‘Best use of direct mail for ‘‘Roundel. Story in a box’ for Roundel

Marketing and media professionals, who we’d usually reach in the office, were stuck in their work-from-home world. Not only had their office space changed dramatically, but the way their audience shopped changed dramatically, too. 

With all this uncertainty, Merkle B2B needed a way to position Target Product Ads by Roundel™ as a simple, cost-effective solution for reaching online Target shoppers. But, given where we collectively were, Merkle also needed to highlight the positive changes in a unique, eye-catching way. The idea of the “unboxing moment” fit perfectly. Online shopping has always created that anticipatory moment of getting a package, and Target in particular has leaned into it, with emails timed to inform and celebrate each step of the delivery process.

By creating a multi-layer direct mail piece that was in and of itself a high-end unboxing experience, Merkle could quite literally tie the media to the message. And to connect to the online world, the premium (wireless headphones) directed audiences to listen to a podcast created with the corporate arm of the world-renowned comedy theater group, The Second City Works. The combination of improv and shopper insights was the perfect way to tie-up the unboxing moment Merkle created.

Strategy – broader business issues the company faced

Roundel adapted to how they marketed to their audience as a result of: 

  • Covid-19 shifted consumer shopping behavior to e-commerce.
  • In response, advertisers sought out media solutions to intercept consumers online.
  • Covid-19 caused a breakdown in traditional in-person, relationship selling. 

Objectives of the campaign 

  • Provide advertisers a media solution to reach the explosion of Target guests who were now shopping online.
  • Introduce them to Target product ads; native ad placements that reach guests who are actively searching and browsing on and the Target App. 
  • The business objective was to increase the awareness of Target Product Ads by Roundel to CPG advertisers and media agencies before the 2021 holiday shopping season. 

The target audience 

  • CPG advertisers, specifically brand marketers and channel sales teams. 
  • National media agencies, specifically media supervisors and planners. 
  • Brand marketers and media planners are multi-taskers. It’s a challenge to engage them and to keep their attention for any kind of sales presentation. Roundel needed to overcome prospect and customer sales fatigue caused by monotonous Zoom calls and endless PowerPoint sales pitches. 

Media, channels or techniques used 

Merkle created a multi-dimensional direct mail package sent to prospect and customer home addresses. Direct mail was chosen because: 

  • The audience size was small; less than 1,000 people and were operating in a work from home environment.
  • Delivery of a package to your home is disruptive.
  • Opening a package causes total focus on the task itself unlike multitasking while on a Zoom call. 

The direct mail package and contents created a multi-media sensory experience including: a custom 4-color printed box – within a box A 4-color product brochure (2 versions); a podcast; and earbuds. 

Timescales of the campaign 

  • March 2021: Concepting.
  • April 2021: Secure earbud premium item.
  • April – May 2021: Collateral development (copy and design).
  • May 2021: Podcast development and recording.
  • May – June: Production.
  • June: Deployment.


  • 81% YOY increase of Target Product Ads revenue in Q4 2021 vs. Q4 2020. 
  • 1413 impressions on the TPA Podcast Roundel LinkedIn Organic post.

“The thoughtfulness around the tie-in to the Unboxing Moment theme really stood out to our Agency partners, who already receive a great deal of mailers and gifts. This, coupled with the premium nature of the actual gift, drove immense awareness of our TPA product in a really impactful and buzzy way”

Stacy Freedman, senior account executive, Roundel

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