Audio

How to win an award: a dozen tips from inside the jury room

Cannes Lions is only a couple of months away.  Which means, for most creative agencies, the annual scramble to get those last-minute ideas up has begun.

Seeing as a career-defining, salary-boosting, jealousy-inducing accolade is at the top of nearly every creative’s to-do list, we thought it’d be valuable to share some pointers from our time in the jury room on how to pick up some metal in the audio category.

 

1. Campaign order

You’ve almost certainly have heard this before, but it’s worth repeating. The order you submit your work as part of a campaign is very important. Lead with your strongest, end with your second strongest. At risk of beating a dead horse, submitting 3 pieces of work should look like look like 1st, 3rd, 2nd.

BBDO New York
Snickers — "Airport Bathroom", "Microwave Buttons", "Credit Card Chip Reader"

 

2. Leave ‘em wanting more

Don’t enter the 90-second version if the 60 does the job.

Ogilvy, Chicago
Lyric Opera of Chicago — "Death Radio"

 

3. Performance craft

The craft category isn’t only for exceptional sound design. If you have a spot with an exceptional performance from an actor, it’s eligible for the craft category under direction.

Ogilvy South Africa, Cape Town
Volkswagen — People Can't Stop Themselves — "Stalker"

 

4. Juries love longevity

You can and should be entering long running campaigns, provided the work is fresh and interesting. You’ll score extra continuity points from the jury. The long-running Motel 6 campaign is a great example of this.

The Richards Group, Dallas
Motel 6 — "Hipsters"

 

5. Shorter the better

Campaigns of short 15-second-or-less spots stand out to judges alongside the thousands of long entries.

Saatchi & Saatchi NY, United States
Stuffit — "Marriage" & “Travel”

 

6. Level of involvement

Ideas that require the listener to “do something” to hear the message (like re-tuning or rebalancing their radio) have to be really, really good and really, really simple to make it past the first round of judging. Especially if the audience’s exposure to the ad is limited in the real world. The following plays on this, however, to communicate its message.

Ogilvy Germany, Frankfurt
HMTM Hannover — The Absolute Pitch

 

7. Be real

Campaigns for clients who wouldn’t usually advertise (at least not from the kinds of agencies who enter Cannes) stand out as being fake. If you’re going to be proactive, make work for a brand that actually advertises. Better yet, make proactive work for your own clients. Not highlighters, paper clips, or bike shops, for example.

Global — The Media & Entertainment Group, London
EasyCoffee — "Steve"

 

8. Don’t embellish results

The jury do their homework. If something doesn’t seem right in an entry, they’ll ask another juror — or Google — for the answer. If you’re campaign didn’t achieve the results your entry is claiming, the jury will (usually) notice.

McCann NY, New York
MGM Resorts International — "Universal Love Songs"

 

9. Inspiration is everywhere

Inspiration comes from anywhere. It’s tempting to follow the trend set by work which won in previous years, but you should also be looking elsewhere for inspiration. Go to museums, watch weird foreign films, spend time in obscure sub-reddits and odd corners of the internet. The aim of the game is fresh work. And you’re not going to achieve that by regurgitating old ideas.

Vapor RMW, Toronto
Branch Out Neurological Foundation — Roomates

 

10. Find the opportunity

Look for the opportunity in every brief. Some of the most awarded work has come from the most ordinary, run-of-the-mill briefs. It doesn’t have to be the next Nike TVC brief to create something spectacular… you just have to approach the problem from a different angle.

Ogilvy, Chicago
Lysoform — "The Last Germ - Day 3"

 

11. Music matters

Don’t use copyright music unless you have paid for it. If you have permission, say that in the description otherwise judges will think it’s a scam. Or you could always get around the copywrite by doing what VW did.

Grabarz & Partner, Hamburg
Volkswagen — “Song Inspection”

 

12. Original is best

Always enter the version in the original language. Yes, include a script and an audio translation, but the original normally has better performances. Which judges can hear, even if they don’t understand the language.

The following is a terrific idea for an Argentinian organisation. But only the English version was submitted for the judges, despite the local version (which would have run) existing. English speakers will immediately hear the unnatural performances and clunky end line, which hurts the overall execution.

Grey Group Argentina, Buenos Aires, Argentina
ELA — "Door"

Unerhört kreativ: Jetzt noch Spots für den Radio Advertising Award 2019 einreichen

Noch bis einschließlich 6. Februar 2019 können Agenturen, Tonstudios und Werbetreibende in den Wettbewerb um den begehrten Radio Advertising Award ziehen. Gefragt sind außergewöhnliche Radiospots und Audio-Ideen, die mit ihrer kreativen Kraft überzeugen. Die Jury um den diesjährigen Vorsitzenden Götz Ulmer (Kreativer & Partner Jung von Matt) freut sich auf Arbeiten, die aufhorchen lassen.

Einreichung unter: www.radio-advertising-award.de

Der Award wird in den Kategorien Best Brand, Best Creative Activation, Best Innovative Idea, Best Storytelling vergeben und natürlich gibt es dieses Jahr wieder den Gewinner des Hörer-Votings, der mit dem Audience Award geehrt wird.

Auch gute regionale Kampagnen sind willkommen und haben Chancen auf eine Trophäe. Sprechen Sie gern ihre Kunden und Tonstudios an.

Folgen Sie uns auch auf Instagram und Facebook für Impressionen und Updates.

Plan for imperfection (After all, that’s where the humanity lies)

The most effective audio, the kind of audio that touches the hearts and minds of its audience, is never perfect. In fact, it’s most likely intentionally imperfect.

You see, we humans aren’t perfect. So when we spot imperfections, we recognise there’s a real human behind what we’re hearing. And that makes it sound authentic.

The same can be said for music. If the vocals are flawless it loses its soul.

Our ears are highly tuned to what’s real and what’s not. Everyone is basically walking around with two bullshit detectors on their head.

So, to ensure your audio sounds as authentic as possible, there are three areas we should seek imperfections — the performance, the recording, and the script.

The performance

If you pay close attention to how people speak, you’ll quickly notice the imperfections. Not only that, people don’t speak the same way they read and write.

We ‘um’ and ‘ah’, stop and start, ramble, our voice breaks, we breathe in the middle of sentences, have f-false starts, mispronounce words, occasionally sound a little husky from a cold (re: hangover)… the list goes on.

A performance containing imperfections separates it from sounding mechanical and untrustworthy. Which is why we should try as hard as we can to capture this humanity, in all its imperfect glory, in every performance.

HBF — Sounds of Nothing

The recording

For the same reasons as above, we also want the quality of our recording to be imperfect. This takes the listeners out of the perfect studio environment and into the “real world”. This is why we add reverb, room tone, and fridge buzzes to the recording.

Another more effective — yet often overlooked — technique is to simply record in the environment relevant to the story you’re telling. This ensures you capture movement in the voices you’re recording, realistic background sounds, and unique and authentic sound effects.

For example, if your script was a conversation between two people in a car, instead of recording a crystal-clear conversation in a studio and adding car SFX after, you could actually record it in a car. Who would’ve thought! It will sound 100 times more authentic than faking it because of the indirect traffic sounds, car reverb, sounds of the car, seat creaks, and clothing movement from the actors inside the car.

Listeners can always tell when something’s been done for real — and spending a little more time on the craft makes your audio (and message) stand out.

McDonald’s — McCafe

McDonald’s — Grand Angus

The script

By the time your script reaches the studio, it’s been through a lot.

It’s been written… rewritten… shown to the creative director… rewritten… shown to the client… rewritten… creative director… rewritten… client… and… eventually… approved!

Any sane, rational human being would want to ensure that this script is recorded exactly as scripted. Word for word. You know the pain and suffering you’ve been through to get this far.

Believe me, we hear you. We absolutely get it.

But you should continue to embrace imperfections by being open to the script changing during the record.

Sometimes the script just isn’t working as well as imagined. Sometimes you (or someone else in the room) will have a suggestion that improves the idea. But the Holy Grail, is to give the actors the freedom to improvise the script during their performance. To not only tweak the script into their own authentic language (or that of the character they’re portraying) but to come up with ideas in the spur of the moment.

Snowy Mountain Brewery

Now, not everyone plans to create imperfect audio. Which is perfect for us. Because it means there’s one final and obvious benefit — our ads will stand out.

The marketplace has never been more cluttered. So creating ads that feel real, authentic, human, and trustworthy is the best way to ensure people pay attention to them amongst the sea of flawless but obnoxiously phoney-sounding messages out there.