Let’s be clear. Winning awards is nothing to do with telling the truth.
It’s mostly about what you can post rationalise to fit whatever people are looking for.
For IPA Effectiveness Awards for example, judges are looking for econometrics, some sign that above the line advertising still works and something new to tell the industry. The IPA is mostly about making adland look grown up and commercial – and create a bank of data for the IPA DataBank which will always tell you creativity pays back and do TV.
The APG Awards are looking for some sign that ‘planning’ had some influence on the creative work and, again, you have something new to tell the industry. In essence, the APG Awards exist to make planners look like a necessary evil rather than an unnecessary evil. And make planners feel creative.
Media Awards are all about evidence and some sign of innovation. Unlike most ‘creative awards’ where it can just submitting the work with a little background explanation, they’re looking for actual evidence you made a difference to a brand’s fortunes, they hate brand tracking and want actual evidence of sales and behaviour change. But as they don’t want econometrics, you can always find a sales story in the data somewhere. Boiling it down....., because media is boring, the direction of media awards is to try and make media interesting, but more grown up and serious than creative awards.
Creative awards judges are looking for something new and original. Something that hasn’t been done before. They couldn’t care less if it sold anything, or indeed of anyone saw it, as long as it rewrites the creative lexicon. Increasingly, unless you want to enter craft skills sections, this means avoiding actually entering ads and doing lots of social media/events/stunts that four people saw. The essence of creative awards is partly making creatives feel good since 80% of their work is destroyed by suits or planners before it gets to the client, then the rest is mauled by client committees and pre-testing. Leaving 1% of work running close to what was hoped for. The rest of creative awards is down to impressing creative directors at agencies you want to work at.
The essence of all awards is to pretend everything is perfect. Strategy, then creative or buying the plan etc, then production works like clockwork. When of course nothing happens until the day before the presentation and the idea that ran came from a rebrief after the client binned the original work.
The mis-quote the X Files, The Truth is Out There but it’s not in awards papers.
So, here’s a potted guide to winning awards..........
If it’s a written paper, write a story. Catastrophise at the beginning, the brand faces a massive challenge, put in some progressive complications (research made us realise we were facing something far worse), throw in a lightning bolt of discovery, base it on a universal truth (we realised this was all about the universal truth that music is form of rebellion to young people) then make sure, when you set out what you actually did, litter with as much gold as you can, focus on what was interesting, rather than what worked…and make the resulting evidence prove it was the interesting stuff that worked. Then write a moral of the story that is something that matches the agenda for the body running the awards…something they would like everybody to do or take on board.
2. Make sure you build in evaluation into a funky campaign or plan when you are running it….and make sure it measures the cool stuff. I’ve seen some of very best campaign not even get nominated because there was no evidence in the results.
3. Of course, if you’re entering creative awards, no one cares if it worked, but you need to make sure the best stuff runs. Make friends with the media agency, make sure there is stuff on the plan the client doesn’t care about and doesn’t cost much. And make friends with whoever is doing production. If it ran and it was one off, it still ran and it still counts. Juries are getting wise to this and to be fair, the better awards events have an agenda to celebrate real work, but even then, it’s the little retail press campaign that ran alongside the dull predictable telly that might do well.
4. Get the client on board if it’s a written case study. Write it early, send it early. They will change it and think you need to reflect what actually happened….leave time for careful negotiation.
5. You need to get innovation and ace stuff into the sell of the client presentation. The first challenge is getting stuff to happen. So make innovation essential and at the heart of your thinking, not a nice to have.
6. Writing this stuff is a real pain in the arse, sometimes you are writing papers a year after the stuff ran. So every time you think you have an award winner, write a one pager – catastrophe, insight, what you did, why it worked..and what’s clever bit. It will save you lots of time and heart ache later one.
Awards do matter by the way. They are good for morale, clients really like them and brilliant for PR. Seriously, clients tend to select new agencies based on work they’ve seem.
But, like the industry, just don’t make a life or death thing.
It’s only life or death if you get too drunk and the actual do and tell your bosses what you really think of them (trust me).