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Feb 06, 2007
How To

Win (More) Marketing Awards: Practical Help from a Real-Life Judge

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, President

I remember the first time I was asked to judge a marketing awards competition. It was for the Philadelphia DMA in 1993, and I was sooo excited.

Then I got to the building and started going over piles of entries with my fellow judges. Within an hour, I was fairly dispirited. Awards judging is grinding hard work, mainly because most entries are pretty bad, and there are piles and piles of them to sort through to find the few standouts.

At least back then, judging meant a day outside of the office sucking up free soda and pizza while gossiping (um, "networking") with your fellow judges. Now with the Internet, judging takes place alone in your office, staring at your computer screen for hour after hour deep into the night until you feel as if your eyeballs might start bleeding.

Here's the good news: If you are thinking of entering yourself for an award anytime soon, it's very, very possible to win. Even despite the hordes of competition, and tired judges, and if you are not the best marketer on the planet.

Why? Three reasons and a useful resource for you:

1) Most entries are riddled with mistakes and slapdash efforts. When a sponsoring organization such as the Clio Awards, Multichannel Merchant magazine or even MarketingSherpa announces the deadline for its upcoming awards, it will get 1% of entries in the first weeks. On the actual day of the deadline, roughly 65% of entries will arrive. Then the day after the deadline, the final 44% of entries come.

(For you direct response marketers out there doing the math, this means the campaign doubling date is around 4 p.m. the deadline day, which explains why so many organizers panic and announce extended deadlines at the last minute.)

So nearly every single entry was completed in a crazy last-minute dash -- often, it appears, by an intern or whoever else is low enough on the totem pole to be roped into doing it. The resulting nomination is missing data, riddled with typos, badly described, and poorly executed. Judges often toss these sloppy entries and move on fast.

If you treat an awards entry as if it were any other marketing campaign on your plate -- which after all, it is -- by scheduling ample time and using your best creative forces for copywriting and strategy, then your entry would at least make it past the round-one eliminations. That means you already beat about half of the entry pack.

2) 80% of entries are from agencies. As a frequent judge, I can tell you that nominations from client-side marketers often stand a higher chance of winning than agency-side nominations. Why? Because the client-side marketer is more likely to have access to results data than its agency is. Results data impress judges tremendously.

In addition, client-side marketers may also write more compellingly about the campaign than the agency will. I've noticed that agencies sometimes write bloated, buzz-wordy, even pompous descriptions of a campaign on entry forms, while client-side marketers cut to the chase.

A tired judge doesn't want to read lots and lots of impressive-sounding formal verbiage. The judge wants to learn quickly why this campaign makes it an out-of-the-ballpark special.

(By the way: Why should you enter an award if you're client-side? Morale. You can give your inhouse team recognition: "I nominated you because you guys are so great!" Career: You can add "nominated for" or "awarded" to your resume. Politics: "See? Outside experts say our marketing is great.")

3) Older campaigns are forgotten. If you ask any marketer what campaign he wants to submit to win an award, usually he picks one from the closest fiscal quarter -- often even a campaign that's just launched.

You're so excited about this neat new thing you just did! You forget that you did something just as neat -- or perhaps even more impressive -- earlier in the year. Out with the old, in with the new.

As long as your entry is within the right time frame (generally the past 12 months), the judges don't care when it happened. Old vs. new means nothing to them. What matters is, is this campaign unique? Does this campaign fulfill its goal?

Pick your strongest-performing campaign of the year to submit, not your newest one.

Now, are you inspired to try to win an award? Here’s one last handy tip and a useful link.

The tip: Pick awards programs with lots of awards to give. Some awards seem to be for the purpose of giving trophies to as many people as possible.

You'll see a dozen or more categories, and then several levels of winners per category, and then loads of "verticals," which will all in turn win in each category. (Verticals might include your industry, your experience, your budget, etc.)

The useful link: Inspired perhaps by my career as a judge, I've had our research team build a database to keep track of all the marketing awards out there. So far, we're tracking 234 awards deadlines year-round for you. You can see the list of upcoming marketing awards plus hotlinks (free) at

We update the list weekly, at this same page, so you may want to bookmark it to check for awards you can enter through the year.

Good luck with your entries. Please go ahead and be the one who makes the judges' jaws drop with delight and surprise!

Anne Holland is president of MarketingSherpa, a research firm publishing buyer's guides and benchmark data for its 237,000 marketing executive subscribers. To sign up for new case studies, go to

© MarketingSherpa, Inc. 2007
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