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

Awards season is upon us.  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 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"

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