How to create award-winning work for clients

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Agencies obsess about awards. We all say they don’t mean anything and aren’t a true recognition of excellent work – that is until we win one. And then out comes the champagne, tweets, press releases and, ahem, articles in The Drum.

But awards are a necessary evil.

Client-side marketers also enjoy winning awards and often use winners’ lists as a starting point for shortlisting an agency. Awards therefore become part of an agency’s marketing plan. And let’s not forget that an awards occasion makes a great morale-boosting team night out.

At Earnest we’ve been fortunate enough to win a range of awards over the years, and we’ve discovered some techniques that guarantee success. So here are a few (retrospective) tips based on what’s worked for us.

Be brave, but MAYA

Our mantra at Earnest is to ‘chase out the humdrum in B2B marketing’. This means pushing us, our clients and the industry into doing the most interesting work possible.

But there’s another critical aspect that’s too often forgotten, which is about pragmatic reality: what is genuinely possible for the client in question.

We therefore follow the MAYA design principle (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) when coming up with creative and tactical ideas: what does success look like for the client? What does risky mean to them? What’s their appetite for disruption?

An example of this was our work for EVO Payments. Acting as a start-up within a large corporation, EVO's appetite for pushing the boundaries in creativity was higher than a ‘typical’ B2B brand.

Where else could you get away with a ‘Friends with benefits’ guide complete with rose petals, car keys and Superman pants?

Work in partnership

With these MAYA principles in place, the emphasis moves to getting great work approved and out in-market.

We’ve found that it’s no longer a matter of selling in ideas to a client. Delivery is super critical and a great idea without a great delivery plan is pointless. The delivery approach that works best involves client and agency using resources and expertise on both sides, increasing an agency ecosystem which works together to create work that everyone takes pride in, and ownership for.

No egos.

No-one being precious.

Everyone feeling pride and ownership.

Produce an award-winning campaign.

Be ruthless

From our experience a ‘spray and pray’ approach to awards doesn’t work. It’s not a matter of the more you enter, the more you win. In fact, we find the opposite approach works best.

Some of our favourite creative work and campaigns has never been seen by judges’ eyes.

We have a stringent quality control selection process for award entries – focusing on effectiveness and results – and we find this can reap rewards. The heart of this is ensuring that we have a myriad of results we can report back on, so we push ourselves and our clients to set KPIs and measure everything from the offset.

We also recommend documenting all that you can during a project. This can involve behind-the-scenes documentaries, photographing workshops, getting quotes from clients and partners – everything that can contribute to bringing to life a project for the judges.

So there you have it…happy hunting!

Andrew Last is client services director at Earnest, a creative agency focused on chasing out the humdrum in B2B Marketing.