5 Things I Learned from Judging the Drum Social Buzz Awards

Friday 5

In our industry, winning awards has become an important driver (one of many) in delivering creative and impactful work for our clients: it helps validate our efforts, win recognition, and just feels good. But creating award-worthy work is only part of the winning formula. I recently participated in judging The Drum Social Buzz Awards in London, dedicated to recognizing and rewarding the very best in social media communications, and it taught me a lot about our craft and industry, and what makes an award-winning entry.

Here are five things I learned while judging:

  1. Learn to Defend Other People’s Work

    I consider myself extremely well versed in the in-and-outs of social media strategy, but having conversations with the other judges inspired and challenged me more than I anticipated. In fact, I probably learned more about the value of social media in one day – from delivering better social ROI to proving if your campaign really worked – than in the past year of reading case studies and articles or attending conferences. We become better at doing our work when we are forced to defend someone else’s. Find a case study or campaign that you love (that you’re not involved in) and see if you can defend why it is a good (or even great!) creative example. What things did you point out? Does your work have the same proof points?

  2. The Case Study is Important

    The work is the most important part of an award submission (let’s face it – the work has to be good). But it’s not the only part of winning. Judges have to go through dozens (if not hundreds) of award submissions during the process and after a while, they all start to look and sound alike. Your case study needs to showcase the work while also making it stand out from the crowd: how are you demonstrating that your creative solved a problem? How was it different than other work that dealt with similar challenges? How can you make your case study stand out in the minds of the judges without trying too hard? Put the same amount of effort into the case study as you would an important presentation. It’s often the only thing we have on which to judge the entry.

  3. The Definition of Social Media Has Evolved

    This sounds like an obvious point, but social media is changing every day. New technologies, platforms, and hacks allow us to deliver better creative campaigns for our clients. This evolving definition means that we should look at all aspects of the social media experience when crafting campaigns and submitting award entries – amplification plans, non-traditional communications, social broadcast assets, and engagement mechanisms. But it also means that you can still have a successful (and impactful) campaign even if you only focused on one or two of these aspects.

  4. Creativity Can Take Many Shapes

    As winners have yet to be announced, I can’t give away too much. But what I will say is that a creative entry is not defined by having the biggest splash, or by being different than any other entry (though it does help). Some of the most creative and impactful entries were dead simple: they solved a problem with a basic mechanism, or proved a brand’s value proposition with a single social asset. I encourage us to not get caught up in having the biggest campaign, or the most content on the internet, but rather to find truthful and interesting solutions to brands’ challenges.

  5. You MUST Prove It Worked

    We all understand the importance of being able to measure the effectiveness of a campaign: without real KPIs and ways of measuring results, we won’t be able to prove the impact of our creative or campaign. But I can’t tell you how many entries included a statement of their desired objectives, and then didn’t prove it out with their results. Case study after case study talked about wanting to improve sales, or drive footfall, or shift brand perception and then either ignored their business objectives completely, or focused on a vanity metric of impressions or engagement. And don’t get me wrong; these metrics are important. But they don’t prove your campaign actually did anything for the brand. I am confident in saying this: if you cannot prove that your campaign delivered on your business objectives then you shouldn’t enter your award for submission.

Matthew Cannington is a director, Digital, Edelman UK. 

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