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Join Our Research Team at DMA 2014
May 09, 2005
How To

Behind-the-Scenes Pointers on How to Win from a Marketing Awards Judge

SUMMARY: Yes, it's true. Campaigns with pretty pictures and high impact graphics can win over duller-looking campaigns even when the latter have stronger results metrics. Find out why and get invaluable tips on making your awards submission more judge-worthy in our exclusive interview with an awards judge.
"Judges are human beings."

That's how Keith Bates, CEO/Creative Director of Keith Bates and Associates, Inc., and judge of the 2005 Business Marketing Association Pro-Comm Awards, sums up the lengthy judging process. At the end of a long day scouring B2B direct marketing campaigns, "their eyes glaze over," he says.

So how can you overcome a judge's fatigue to join the ranks of winners such as OfficeMax, Cessna Aircraft Company, and Kodak Professional, and agencies like Bader Rutter and Associates and Slack Barshinger?

To make sure your BMA entry gets the notice it deserves, Bates suggests the following pointers:

Pointer #1. Judges can be powerfully swayed by graphics

Judging for the Awards is based on a number of factors, but how a campaign looks and how it performs are the two major considerations. But the truth is that the judges, many of whom come from the advertising world, are picture- and copy-oriented," says Bates.

If the campaign visually knocks their socks off, "It's going to get more weight than pages of metrics," he says. Of course, he acknowledges, that depends on the nature of the judge, but the advertising business attracts people who are creative rather than people focused on analytics.

Plus, marketing has historically been difficult to track, so judges are more likely to be forgiving of a lack of metrics than a lack of aesthetics.

Pointer #2. Do you *really* want to submit that?

Bates noticed a trend in judging this year: shoddy work. Plenty of entries showed a lack of professionalism. "I don't know if they were developed by little start-up agencies or developed in-house," says Bates. "But somebody spent money to enter them. They must have been enamored of their own work."

He looked at each of the lousy entries in the hopes that, while it didn't look good, it performed well. But for the most part, it didn't.

Another problem: entries that weren't clear about what was being sold. "I wasn't sure if it was a product or a service. They'd get all wrapped up on what a product did, and did for you, that you weren't sure what it even was. An awful lot of art directors never heard of the word 'simple.'"

It's as though, he says, "some creative team got so excited about putting together words and pictures, they forgot about selling."

Pointer #3. Put results data in context

In the entry form, explain exactly what you meant for the campaign to do and how it accomplished that mission. Then, put it in context. "If it generated 50 leads, was that good? Or are other campaigns generating 1,000 leads?"

Pointer #4. Enter cutting-edge campaigns

Because Bates is a big fan of viral marketing, he was disappointed that there were very few, if any, viral marketing entries.

Online is the hottest trend of all, of course, he says, and the newest solution is RSS -- but again, he didn't see any entries dealing with RSS.

Other trends: direct marketing is picking up steam again, while ads are dropping off, he says.

Pointer #5. Ask the account executive or copywriter to fill out the entry

The entry form is clear, straightforward, and includes enough space to answer the questions. Unfortunately, people who submit the forms often don't have a clear idea of what the campaign was trying to do. As a result, Bates saw entries that were missing major components, such as actual metrics.

Another problem with having the wrong person fill out the form is they puff up the entry with glowing phrases: "This was a great campaign," "Everybody loved it," "We got lots of leads," "It was the best campaign we ever did," are flowery phrases that don't say anything.

"A lot of [entries], I think, are written by the creative department, which is not a good thing if they can't give you a clear idea of what they're trying to do," Bates explains.

Another mistake he saw was impracticality: "You get an entire book of what they intended to do, with 40 or 50 pieces that we're supposed to read, and we don't have the time, " he says.

Particularly with PR campaigns, it helps to provide a summary.

Pointer #6. Realize it's a subjective process

"The whole process is a little nebulous, and that's the nature of the beast," says Bates. "Words and pictures and products are interpreted in different ways."

You might understand the process better by becoming a judge. While judging took an entire day, it was worth it, Bates says. "I can spare a day. I got a beautiful look at what marketers are doing today. I got to look at hundreds of these products across the entire perspective of B-to-B marketing. Some stuff was, 'Boy, that's a great idea, I wish I had thought of that,' and other stuff was, 'Oh, that technique was old 10 years ago.'"

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