What are awards judges looking for?

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 10 January 2018

The Agency of the Year Awards are open for entry now. We rely on senior industry experts to judge our awards. They take it seriously and so do we. It’s a big commitment of time and judges are looking at dozens of entries in some categories, so there are a few simple steps to take so that your best work stands out.

We asked three senior industry leaders that have judged the AdNews Agency of the Year Awards on multiple occasions for their tips for entrants.

Whether they are from a creative background, media or client side, it all comes down to an award entry that stands head and shoulders above the others. Telling a distinct story, making sure the submission is clearly presented, accurate and answers the criteria is key.

Mark Coad, CEO of PHD Australia, says there are three things entrants should do in their award submissions: Think about how they will stand out, get to the point, and don’t bullshit.

“Judges see a lot of entries … by the time they have finished, they can’t even remember the name of your agency, let alone your achievements. You need to ask yourself: How am I going to stand out? When it’s all said and done – what will make my submission memorable, and more importantly – what is it that I want them to remember? If you can achieve that – you are halfway there,” he says.

Coad also makes a strong point that what judges see consistently is media metrics being confused with business results. Impressions and click through are not the same as sales and growth. This will be particularly pertinent in the new AdNews Effectiveness Award  this year.

“There is no room or time or waffle in here. Make it brief, accurate and support your key points with facts. 56,000 impressions or “the target market were buzzing with excitement” or one million mentions on social media are not results. Judges want to see business results that are directly linked to the work.

“How did your work help push products off shelves? The closer you can get to that, justify it and back it up, the better. It sounds incredibly obvious, but confusing media metrics with business results is very common in award submissions. You may as well write 'I have no idea what the actual results of this campaign were, but here are some large media statistics to try and wow you instead'.

Tangible, real business outcomes

Thérèse Kallie, director of communications and marketing excellence at Nestle, agrees. She’s looking for tangible ways the work being submitted has delivered to the business.

She looking for things like how the agency and the brand have used comms and marketing to differentiate, and developed  a creative solution that consumers are receptive to, and has managed to change their mind or persuade them to make a purchase.

From the creative perspective, Steve Coll, With Collective chief creative officer and partner, says agencies should apply the same skills they apply to work for their clients to their own brands so that their award submissions stand out by telling a distinct story of that agency’s success.

“Designing a brand that stands out from the competition isn’t easy. It generally involves late nights, strategic gymnastics, intense creative thinking and liberal consumption of Nurofen. Agencies do it for their clients every day,” he says.

“But it’s striking how little time agencies spend applying those skills to their own brands. In almost every show I’ve judged, there will be a slew of written submissions that are strikingly similar. ‘We did some great work, we turned a good profit, and our culture is fantastic’ – rinse and repeat. At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, the best advice to anyone entering the AdNews Agency of the Year is to nail a genuine and genuinely interesting point of difference in the first page of the entry. You’d be amazed how seldom it happens.”

Don't bullshit

Lastly, and something that is an issue in every single awards programme, is “stretching the truth”. The AdNews Agency of the Year Awards requires the financial information in every single entry to be signed off by the CFO or CEO of the entering company to say that it is accurate.

We expect companies and CEOs to comply and all entries to be submitted in good faith without misleading information. This year we strengthened some of our criteria because as the nature of the industry shifts and becomes more complex, so does jugding. Read more about it here: We’ve strengthened our awards entry criteria

“This is the thing that turns me off instantly,” says Coad.

“Don’t bullshit. It will be seen a mile off and if judges detect any stretching of the truth it will take credibility from everything else you say. If you have a good story to tell, be brief, be personable and be genuine.”

The AdNews Agency of the year Awards are open now. The deadline for entry is 4pm on 19 January. Don't leave it until the last minute - get started now.

We've also added three three new categories this year:The AdNews Effectiveness Award, Media Campaign of the Year - small budget, and The Best Use of Technology. More details on those can be found in the entry kit. 

Join us to celebrate the best in the creative and media business at The AdNews Agency of the Year Awards. The 2017 awards are now open for entry and will be held on 15 March.

We’d like to thank our sponsors Nova Entertainment, MCN, Facebook, Outdoor Media Association, Val Morgan, Adstream, NewsMediaWorks, founding People & Culture sponsor iknowho, and Royal Auto and Bluestar Web.

Dates to remember:

  • The awards are open from 27 November. All entries need to go through the online portal https://adnews.awardsplatform.com/
  • The deadline for entries is 4pm 19 January 2018 - there are no extensions
  • The eligibility period is 1 January 2017 - 31 December 2017 (except the AdNews Effectiveness Award)
  • The awards will be held on 15 March 2018

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au

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