Google Spotx The Drum Awards

The Drum Awards judges on how to write a winning entry


By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

January 7, 2021 | 7 min read

What makes a brand campaign powerful, evocative, and truly unforgettable? Each year at the various awards at The Drum, hundreds of judges identify the campaigns that meet some of these criteria. And while there are many factors that go into how the juries at The Drum Awards select winners, what is that one common theme?


What makes a winning entry: The Drum Awards Breakfast

We sat down with five previous judges to share their insights and the do’s and don’ts of entering awards.

The three elements, according to our judges, that make a winning entry include: results, narrative and strategy.

Weeding out the bullshit

Results need to be outputs, not outcomes and they need to be stitched to what the actual aim of the campaign was.

SpotX vice president European strategy, Joanna Burton, says that for her, the common theme is the results driven from the campaign. “What were you seeking to achieve and what was delivered? Often, it's great to see when those results have been applied when the learning has then influenced and increased in another channel.”

“Nobody is going to enter an award with disappointing results,” explains David McMurtrie, head of publisher team, Google UK. “Anything that you enter for an award is successful. When you're writing award entries you may manipulate the data to show that it's more successful than it has been, but my advice would be not to just add in results and metrics for the sake of it, make sure that they are meaningful.”

The judges do look for that and if you provide a bland index, that doesn't mean anything unless there is some benchmark to pitch that against. Even if you can't disclose confidential information make sure that the results are meaningful for a judge and tells a story, says McMurtrie.

Also, bear in mind that our judges are industry experts and can “smell the bullshit”. Wayne Deakin, executive creative director, Huge, has seen plenty entries and there are always some that that are double glazed sale men claims of "we broke the internet". From a creative point of view, Deakin expresses that if the awards are about craft, the results aren’t always important because you are judging on the craft element. “Don’t overclaim, over promise etc. All juries and judges can smell bullshit miles away.”

Weaving the narrative

According to Janice Thomas, marketing director, Birchbox, the narrative, and the strategy around it, is critical. Many people fall into the trap of jumping around the story, leaving it unclear. You’re telling a story, so make sure you say what the piece of work intended to do, what you did and what happened. “If you're telling a compelling story, then immediately, whether you did something amazing or not, you’re engaged because you wrote something appealing and interesting,” says Thomas.

On the other hand, Burton wants to know who the client is. “Storytelling is interesting but for me what made judging The Drum Awards easier was the results and bullet points. Explain who the client is, what they were trying to achieve, why this is important to them and then focus on what the tactics were and the outcomes.”

It can take a judge a day and a half to read all of the entries, with the follow up judging day where judges can bat off their different point of views, perhaps seeing something that someone else might not have. Video and imagery are a particular delight for our judges. A photograph can tell 1000 words. All you need to do is provide a link, if allowed in the scope of the entry. Burton explains that “it really makes a world of difference because it's one thing to read but another if you can really see it and see how the campaign comes together.”

According to Elli Papadaki, head of Condé Nast international programmatic, sales and strategy, it’s all about innovation. One way to stand out to the judges is to show if your team have tried to do something new or found a different way to do something that was already a common practice, but it had either good results or it went about a way that somebody hadn't thought of before.

Writing for the award you want to win

The type of award can dictate how you write your entry. At The Drum Awards there are two types of entries over 23 competitions which are either creative or result led. One relies on the craft and design or the work (e.g. The Drum Awards for Design), whereas the other banks heavily on the results (e.g. The Drum Awards for Digital Advertising) but it all comes down to how you engage the judge.

For Deakin, with creative work he wants brutal honesty. He likens these entries to visiting a great restaurant. “You don't want fluff everywhere, you want beautifully cooked ingredients that are well presented. A lot of the time it's about what you leave out is important rather than what you put in.”

However, don’t fall into the trap of entering a piece of work that does everything, warn the judges. One of the most important things about awards is category selection so focus on the category you are on and do an entry specific to that rather than something that does everything.

The same challenges exist within result-led entries. How do you make it personal and how do you tell a good story? “If you are writing a tech entry or something that is research led,” says McMurtrie “you do tend to rely much more on data and make it more factual rather than a creative entry. Sometimes that is a mistake because what stands out is personality within an entry.

“That applies regardless of whether it is a creative award or another type of award. you've really got to bring your own personality into the entry. Ultimately make the brand/product/service that you are entering the hero of the story. If you don’t do that, the judges aren't going to buy into what you've written.”

The Drum Awards recognise the excellent work that the advertising, marketing and media secors are producing, awarding those agencies, brands and people who are at the top of their game. Check out our dedicated awards section for more information on how to enter.

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