Judges at the 2021 Prolific North Marketing Awards on what makes a winning entry

Charlie Spargo's picture
by Charlie Spargo

2021's judging panel at the Prolific North Marketing Awards have shared what they'll be looking out for in this year's entries.

The Marketing Awards will be presented at a ceremony at Leeds' Queens Hotel on November 25th, and will celebrate the North's best marketing campaigns from the last year, as well as top teams and agencies.

Its judging panel is drawn from across the marketing industry, with experience both brand- and agency-side - who will come together to score all the entries and create the full shortlist.

Early Bird entries for the Marketing Awards - which offer discounted administration fees - are open until September 17th, with the final entry deadline arriving on October 8th.

To give yourself the best chance of taking away one of the prestigious accolades, a selection of the judges have shared what they will be looking for at the awards, and what makes a good entry a great one.

Nick Archer, Senior Client Sales Lead, Channel 4

It’s always fantastic to have the opportunity to write about the successful work you’re most proud of, and always frustrating that word count limits always seem to make you feel that you can’t really bring the story to life!

With this in mind, at the first opportunity offer a clear overview so the judges are able to quickly understand the concept, why it’s being executed and the associated KPIs. We need to be able to bring together tangible results that can be clearly linked back to your objectives and telling us a story we understand from the off is incredibly helpful. Keep in mind that any results should offer a ‘before’ and an ‘after’, as simply stating the new figures doesn’t provide any context for judges to appreciate the success of the campaign.

Never be afraid to be different. You can still communicate all your key points, but an entry that stands out from the other 100 the judges have read that day is always beneficial. While the entry framework can feel like a creative straitjacket, use stats, visuals and quotes to lift the submission, while still telling a concise story.

Make sure any additional material such as results data and visuals - which are of course always very welcome - are actually referenced in the entry. If I have a fantastic TV commercial to view, I’d expect its role to have been mentioned in the entry.

Finally, enjoy the process of crafting your submission. It really does shine through to the judges when an entry has been written with a sense of pride and passion.

Mike Deyes, Associate Director of Marketing (Digital), University of Liverpool

I love judging awards. There is so much good work out there it’s great to see it up close and personal.

Every section in an entry is important, of course, but the one I most like to see well written, clear, and factual are the Objectives. A good section here sets the entry up and tells us judges what you were trying to do. When we are so busy at work, we all know it’s always too easy to get straight on with delivering the tactics, but this is a great opportunity to take a step back and articulate your objectives properly.

My other tip is just not to try to cram too much in. It just makes it harder to read and judges have a lot of paperwork to go through especially in the more popular award categories. Brevity and relevance are everything. As I think Pascal once said, “I wrote you a long letter as I didn’t have time to write you a short one”. So, please write us a short letter and you’ll have a much better chance of winning.

Mark Mobbs, Marketing Manager, Marketing Sheffield

As someone who has sat agency-side for most of their career, and who now works public sector-side, I can be really honest when I say that data and stats aren’t the be all and end all. What I mean by this is that in some cases, stats on reach and coverage, for example, can easily be a by-product of budget and therefore don’t necessarily mean something has been successful.

For me it’s about whether a piece of work intuitively feels right for the audience, product/service/experience offer, and fulfils the brief before anything has even gone live. And your data should come next - how does it back this up, not just look like ridiculously high percentages that seem at odds with the work itself?

Relevance, authenticity and sentiment aren’t things that can easily be data-driven, yet will always remain coveted holy grails in the quest for marketing success - so just make sure your award entries feel right first before you worry about the numbers.

Sam Dolan, Head of Marketing, Aunt Bessie’s

Firstly it goes without saying that as a Northerner I couldn’t be more excited to see the talent in this great region showcased in these awards.

I’ll be looking for submissions that tell me the whole story, warts and all, in plain English with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Storytelling is crucial to a great campaign and consumer engagement so please make sure you take me on your journey.

Great campaigns never run smoothly but nothing worth having is ever easy to get, so show me your resilience and adaptability, woo me with your creative mind and above all show me it delivered.

I want to see a human problem that you’ve solved, no jargon or buzzwords. Give it to me straight. Consumers are humans so use basic English – both to me and them!

Demonstrate success with hard and soft measures – consumer sentiment is as crucial in the long run for brand salience as ROI is for the short term.

Above all, have fun writing it and be proud of what you’ve achieved.

Dan Appleby, Managing Director, Drummond Central

When I left London, I was told I was “committing career suicide”. All I’d be working on, they said, would be black and white, quarter-page, double glazing ads. We all know that’s utter horseshit, and I’m proud to say that some of my best and most effective work has happened since I returned to the North.

After a ridiculously challenging year, I’m really looking forward to seeing what the finest Northern marketers have to show off. I’m looking for work that makes me wish I’d been a part of it - I want to feel envious and just a little bit jealous.

I’m looking for work with a really strong narrative behind it. I want the entries to tell me a story. What the challenges were. What you were up against. What made it so important to get it right. And what made it difficult.

I want to know what the strategy was and where the insight came from. And of course, I want to see powerful creativity that affected real change, however the campaign was delivered.

Every brief carries the potential to create something remarkable and powerful. But you have to work at it, otherwise you run the risk of just creating more cultural landfill and passing like a ship in the night (to quote Ogilvy). So tell me what you did that was extra. What made it so special? What elevated the idea or the campaign from a 6 to a 9 or 10 out of 10? Why did it work? And how do you know?

Credible award schemes like this don’t exist to simply celebrate the production of stuff. This is about more than producing assets and executing campaigns. How was the audience influenced? What did they do as a result of the campaign? How much did the campaign sell? How did the brand grow? I’m looking for clear evidence that the work made a real, tangible difference to a brand’s business.

Ben Hookway, CEO, Relative Insight

Consider the fact that there are around 170,000 words in the English dictionary, yet 50% of any body of text (including what I’m writing here) is composed of just 170 of those words repeated over and over.

It’s astounding to think that half of what we say, and write - is made up of just 0.1% of the available words - so when you know you have only 1,000 of them to try and summarise all of that hard work that you sweated blood and tears over, then your task is even more daunting.

My advice to you is to think about what makes you different. Show us why you’re not like anyone else, explain your own unique thought-process behind the campaign, and tell us why you stand out from the competition. Give us something memorable, give us something to think about, and make each word count.

If you have data and research which informed the campaign then go into some detail on this. In an age when all agencies are "data-savvy", show you really know what you are doing with data and why.

Isabel Rojas, Strategy Director, FCB Health Europe

I’m very much looking forward to judging the incredible work that I’m sure will be submitted by many talented people in our industry. As a planner, it is very important for me to see how the work is able to clearly communicate the message and move - activate and emotionally engage - the audience.

To be memorable and effective, a creative piece needs to be rooted in an audience truth. But it goes beyond this: that insight needs to be translated into a creative idea, as otherwise the work would be replicating what was conveyed in the brief. This is what, to me, sets a good entry apart.

Personally, I’m keen to see how the work is able to tell a story - based on an audience insight - in a fresh, clever and visually impactful way. I also look forward to learning about the results that it delivered, including how the overall communications objectives were met.

The postings on this site are my own thoughts and opinions and do not necessarily represent the positions, strategies or opinions of my employer or its clients.

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