With The Drum Awards for 2021 in full swing, we speak to both current and former judges, as well as a multi-award winner, to get their advice on crafting the perfect entry.
It’s common knowledge that an awards entry must stand out from the crowd to succeed. Whether it’s with a punchy video or a compelling executive summary, the story of your campaign, product or platform needs to resonate with the jury. Hear from judges about their pet peeves and top tips and get answers about budgets, language, and additional assets.
To find out the secret to a great entry, we spoke to Grace Kok, head of content marketing (international markets) at ByteDance, a judge of The Drum Awards for Content; Rohan Kamra, regional digital marketing & media manager at Intel, a judge of The Drum Awards for B2B; and Asha Gourinath, lead digital marketing and CRM, growth markets, at Grab, a former chair of The Drum Awards for Digital Advertising APAC.
We also asked Michelle Hobbs, APAC lead for platform GSK, Publicis Groupe, whose company won various accolades at The Drum Awards for Digital Advertising APAC last year, about the positive impact of entering awards, and how to get started on the entry process.
What do you look at first when judging an entry?
“The executive summary – that’s your elevator pitch,” says Gourinath, but she warns entrants against taking a formulaic approach. “Instead focus on storytelling, connecting the business problems with the marketing strategy.” Kamra agrees that a clear and articulate summary stands out, especially one that demonstrates results. “B2B marketing is about business outcomes. So it might be a great, creative idea, but if it didn’t move the needle for business, perhaps it’s not the best work out there.”
In addition to the summary, Kok advocates giving context to your entry with supplemental materials: a link to your website, social assets, a video. “Judges watch a lot of videos, so approach yours like a creative brief. Hook your judges in the first six seconds and they’ll definitely talk about you.”
What do you look for in a winning entry?
First and foremost, they’re looking for results. “Ultimately, the outcomes are the most important thing, especially in B2B,” says Kamra. “I would give brownie points for inventive uses of technology and data. Many companies are sitting on a great tech stack but they aren’t all using it well.”
For Kok, it’s a mix of results and the ways companies have tackled a challenge. “I want to see how you reached your audience – in the current Covid-19 situation, there are many opportunities to get creative. That’s the main hook for me, but it’s important to show that you got results.”
Asha’s priority is uniqueness. “Awards are not about business as usual. Highlight your best showmanship as a creative storyteller, or how through innovation you solved a technical or business problem. A winner connects the dots between media and creative, and if you did something really different from your competition, then you’ll stand out.”
Does not submitting a video asset put me at a disadvantage?
“I personally prefer a video asset,” says Kok, as they present the content in a way that’s easy to digest, but they might not be the right fit for every company. “If you’re short of time, make sure you have one slide that includes links to work that has gone out, or testimonials from the audiences you connected with – all these will help build a memorable picture for the judges.”
According to Gourinath, a video isn’t a must. She recalls a company that won several awards last year, without submitting a video: “Their storytelling was great, and their creative assets well-differentiated. So long you have a clear sense of how you’re going to design and tailor submissions, it’s fine, it will stand out.”
She adds, “creating something special for an award submission, or getting your creative partners to help out, does make a good impression and demonstrates commitment to the process.”
But a video that’s too long will lose the viewer’s attention and do more harm than good, says Kamra. “You should be able to tell your story in a crisp, clear manner. If you can’t, then maybe this work doesn’t make for a great awards entry.”
Does an entry with a small budget really stand a chance against the big players?
Kamra says that while first impressions do count, judges are looking for substance. “I go back to basics. What was the challenge, and how did you overcome it, what was the outcome? That is a story that will cut through, no matter how polished or well-made the other entries are.”
While some categories may attract entries from larger companies, but Gourinath is certain that doesn’t mean only those companies can win. “If you have a good use case, and you feel like you’re worthy – you should go ahead and submit. It might be a one off, or an unusual project that you believe in, why shouldn’t you share it with a wider audience?”
In fact, smaller companies can produce some of the most inspiring work. “It’s not about the big brand or budget, it’s about being creative and solving problems,” says Kok. “If you can inspire other people to go, ooh, I wish I’d thought of that, then don’t wait. That’s the work we want to see. Bring it on.”
Is campaign at a disadvantage if it’s in a language other than English?
No – in fact Kok believes it can demonstrate an exceptional understanding of your local market. “It can be an advantage if you’re able to show how you’ve helped your core customer. You’re creating work that isn’t seen in the wider market.”
While The Drum strives to foster diversity across judging panels internationally, it’s best to submit your entry report in English. “We can’t guarantee that the people judging your category will speak your language,” says McEleny, “but good creative speaks for itself.”
What are your pet hates from entrants?
Not sticking to the word count – less is sometimes more!
Submitting work that doesn’t align with the category requirements
Entering the same work into too many different categories
As an award winner or a judge, what are your top tips for entrants?
Dedicate time and focus to writing your entry – don’t let it feel like an afterthought.
Give yourself enough time to collect the right results to support your entry.
Write something you enjoy reading. “If you’re bored writing it, then the judges will be bored reading it,” says Hobbs. “Don’t be afraid to have some fun.”
Be sure to answer all the questions.
Provide evidence to support your claims.
Finally, editing is essential.
What does an award winning entry look like?
For Hobbs, it all starts with results. “You need to tell a strong story across all elements of your campaign, but if you don’t have good results, it’s hard to make a good entry.”
She adds that agencies often don’t leave themselves enough time. “Start with your deadline and work backwards. I would recommend a month to six weeks to work on your entry. That includes enough time to gather all your results and get a good sense-check internally before you submit.”
As a past winner, what benefits do you see from entering awards?
Particularly in the context of a difficult year, Hobbs believes awards are an important morale boost for staff. “It makes the team feel great. It’s important to give people recognition for the work they to – now more than ever.”
“They also make the client feel fantastic. It shows them how hard you work, and reflects well on the company. That in turn inspires you to do better work together.”
Finally, winning awards is a good way to improve your visibility. “Agencies that are seen to do great work can attract and retain talent.”
The Drum Awards are now open for entry across many of our disciplines.