How to make award entries a better bet than a lottery ticket

Five strategies clients and agencies can employ to increase their odds of winning awards—and more importantly, improving their marketplace performance.

Jul 02, 2013 02:09:00 PM | Article | Jeff Estok Share - Share to Facebook

Jeff Estok

I recently attended the Festival of Asian Marketing Effectiveness. And despite the hundreds of entries this year, representing hundreds of millions of dollars of marketing spend, the blue-chip panel of judges did not award the highest honour of a Platinum Award.

Not one entry was judged worthy of that honour. 

And, as one judge confided to me privately, “Most companies would have been better off banking the money than spending it on most of the campaigns we saw. In fact, you would have stood a better chance of getting a return from buying a lottery ticket.”

So, who is to blame here? Marketers, who are vested with providing briefs with compelling insights? Or agencies, who are vested with responding to these briefs with inspired ideas?

And more importantly, what can be done to improve on this?

Both parties are to blame. Partly because shoddy briefing practices have become the norm, and partly because the agencies have forgotten some of the basic mandates for making the magic happen.

Fortunately, the path to improvement shone clear in two of the festival’s presentations.

One was Millward Brown’s presentation on "Making brands more meaningfully different", in which, among other things, they analysed and synthesised the elements that contribute to more effective work. And not just more effective in terms of winning awards, but also in realising in-market financial success.

The other was the DDB presentation on "Emotion in marketing", showcasing the findings from studies by Forethought Research and Monash University.

Here are five strategies clients, and agencies, can do to improve their odds:

1. Make your brand meaningful

How many marketers can express, simply, and truthfully, the difference that their brand intends to make to people’s lives? With utility the new basis for value, this has to be foundational thinking.

2. Make your brand different

Complaining that you operate in a parity category is a cop-out. If yours was truly parity, there would be no category leader. And beyond different, lies superior. What can you say about your brand that is Unique? Important? Believable? Deliverable? If you can’t communicate these to your agency, how do you expect them to communicate these to potential consumers?

3. Make your brand salient

Your brand must be easily found, affordable, and actively talked about. The digital revolution has given consumers greater access to comparative shopping than ever before. A recent McKinsey study found that 80 per cent of consumers found companies, whereas only 20 per cent of companies found consumers. Salience will only continue to grow in importance.

4. Emote

Every category is underpinned by both rational and emotional drivers. Yet most marketers, and agencies, tend to default to the rational, at the expense of emotional. This is compounded by the application of decades-old market research techniques that are grounded in rational decision-making behaviour. However, new findings by Forethought Research and Monash University on emotional theory have shown that emotional triggers trump rational triggers in consumption decisions for many categories. The message is clear. When it comes to emotion, marketers and agencies must explore it... exploit it... explode it!

5. Surprise

Is there any wonder that the most awarded, and most shared commercials are the ones that surprise us in some way? With a laugh, with a tear, with a plot twist we just didn’t see coming? And the most successful campaigns double and treble their paid audiences through sharing. So before you present, or approve, that next commercial, ask yourself: Is this something that I would want to watch again? And is this something that is likely to be talked about, and shared? If the answer is no, then start again.

Marketers and agencies that put in the hard yards to take on board this learning will not only be awarded, but rewarded as well. The Millward Brown study shows that meaningfully different and salient brands are five times more likely to capture volume; 13 per cent more likely to command a price premium and four times more likely to grow value share.

Much better returns than a lottery ticket.

Jeff Estok is managing partner of Navigare.

The article first appeared on