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Agencies Agency Leadership

The imaginary marketing awards: Ad execs’ unsung campaign heroes (and villains)


By Sam Anderson, Network Editor

April 10, 2024 | 14 min read

Marketing leaders from The Drum Network tell us the awards categories of their dreams, and their imaginary winners (though not every category is one you’d want to win).

PepsiCo's 'Tastes OK' campaign

What categories are marketing's major awards shows missing? / PepsiCo

The summer brings one of marketing’s busiest awards seasons, with The Drum Marketing Awards launching in APAC, Europe, and the Americas from next month and Cannes Lions not far behind.

Awards categories evolve with the times (Cannes Lions announced a new humor award last year; The Drum’s own list of gongs evolves every year) – but can they ever evolve fast enough? We asked eight leading marketers what category they’d introduce, and who’d win this year.

Jonathan Izzard, strategy director, Wonder (part of the Amplify family): Least toe-curling AI-inspired initialism – Winner: Lunchables’ ‘AI v KI’

“In the panicked race to capitalize on the surge in public interest around AI, this award goes to the brand that has managed to coin an AI-adjacent term that’s not objectively dreadful. Amid the maelstrom of hype, marketers seem unable to resist the urge to deliver brand-centric plays on the ubiquitous initialism. Whether it’s ‘Putting the EI into AI’ or ‘From Artificial Intelligence to Actionable Intuition’, these are generally both painful and pointless. My winner for this award for 2024 would be (quite improbably) Lunchables, with its ‘AI v KI’ campaign (the ‘KI’ standing for ‘Kid Imagination’). Capitalizing on the boundless creativity of children, the brand offered the prompt to both kids and an AI to “imagine a mozzarella stick or pretzel twist as something fantastical”. The best designs were showcased online, the winning designer becoming the brand’s ‘Head of Imagination’. Cute, relevant and optimistic.”

Maddy Franklin, senior art director, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment North America: Best use of gen Z slang in a non-cringe way – Winner: Lyft’s social campaigns

“So many ads try to rizz us up by using words that make them sound like an op. You’re delulu if you think your DTC product is bussin. Your new money management app doesn’t slap or pass a vibe check. It’s the disconnect from gen Z consumers for me. Few can simp for attention with gen Z terms without making me want to yeet myself out the window. When it’s done right, it hits different. So, let’s give a W to the ad that gives us the least ick, by gassing people up with an authentic TOV. IYKYK. Lyft has mastered the quick turn translation of trends and terms. The brand uses slang on an immediate and intimate level as to not alienate customers. With new buzz words coming in every day (personally I’m still stuck on ‘Skibidi’) it’s essential to keep any idea featuring slang short and sweet.”

Scarlett Santi-Brooks, senior creative, PrettyGreen: Best punning – Winner: Lidl’s ‘Bottlecelli’

“Cannes may have announced the introduction of a ‘humor’ category this year, but let’s take things one step further with the best pun award. Received wisdom is that a pun isn’t a foundation for a good idea. But a pun takes two unrelated thoughts and binds them together, creating something new within a single expression. This is the essence of creativity, surely. And when it works, it’s pleasurable, memorable, and often funny. I’d go as far to say that a pun can make or break an idea, and cement a concept. So let’s celebrate pun-driven ideas in all their glory by giving them their own stage, like this 25ft mural of Botticelli’s Venus, made from over 30,000 bottle caps to mark the retailer’s plastic return pilot scheme.”

Dan Srokosz, creative director, AgencyUK: Highest LinkedIn engagement with lowest RLSG (real-life shits given) – Winner: BA’s billboard and the (fake) EasyJet clap-back

“It’s becoming more and more of a thing—the most minimal (yet recognizable) application of a distinctive brand asset, mocked up on a billboard, presented to droves of admiring LinkedIn followers. It’s got an achingly nonchalant caption. Four-figure ‘like’ count. Comment section flooded with feverish praise. It’s the boldest application of brand awareness since time began. It’s brilliant. It’s everything a creative wishes they could produce… and yet, no one in the real world could give a solitary shit. To them, it’s just a badly-cropped picture of a plane and a big headline on an orange background. Congrats BA and easyJet.”

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Kier Humphreys, sales director, Hallam: B2B tech brand with a genuinely unique proposition – [no entrants]

“We’re long past due an award for a B2B tech brand that isn’t ‘harnessing the power of AI to unleash your data's potential, 3x GTM and cuts costs by 74%’. Sadly though, there won't be enough entrants for the award to have even the shortest of shortlists due to, well, the hype train.”

Clare Roberts, head of marketing, Clickon: Best rival brand tease – Winner: PepsiCo’s ‘Tastes OK’


“How about a fun new award category that's all about celebrating those clever, memorable ads that creatively throw a friendly jab at competitors, all while cleverly promoting their own brand?”

Candy Green, creative director, The Fifth: Best above-the-line advert born from a viral post – Winner: Paramount+, Hey Arnold and Patrick Stewart

“What happens on social definitely doesn’t need to stay on social. Especially when it comes to brands truly connecting to the cultural behaviors of their audience. This category would honor work that responds to real social behavior and culture through creative across their wider media strategy. My winner? Paramount+ and Droga5’s latest iteration of the ‘Mountain of Entertainment’ campaign for this year’s Super Bowl. The ad taps into a viral social trend with Creed’s song ‘Higher’ as Sir Patrick Stewart throws Hey Arnold’s football-shaped head in an attempt to climb Paramount Mountain. The song regained fame following a viral TikTok where creator @MaceAhWindu used the song to stitch content showing another creator throwing a large piece of ice.”

Simon Billington, executive vice president, global executive creative director, Team Lewis: Best use of plagiarism – [redacted]

“Echoing ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’, this award honors transformative creativity beyond mere imitation. It celebrates those who masterfully borrow elements from various domains to forge innovations that stand distinctly apart from their origins. It underscores the essence of creativity: not the act of creating from nothing, but the skillful reassembly and reinterpretation of existing ideas into something unprecedented and impactful. The question is, would anyone be brave enough to enter?”

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