How (Not) To Win An Industry Award

I am writing to you this week from the Festival of Media Global (#FOMG15 if you want to follow along) in Rome. The city is gorgeous, and the festival (now in its eight year) has become a must-attend industry gathering, with a veritable who’s who in attendance. It runs through  May 12.

In a sign that I'm now truly old, I was asked to be Emeritus Chair of the Content & Technology categories of the Festival of Media Awards, a job I gladly accepted. As a judge, you get a unique opportunity to see (mostly) well-put-together case histories, typically with business results included.

Because the awards are not announced until Tuesday evening, I can’t reveal anything about the winners and the losers. But I can tell you about my experiences as a judge at this festival, and other festivals where I've had the pleasure of judging. Here's what you need to do to win (or not):

-- Job One: create a killer video. Any other materials will get a cursory review, and are typically checked out only when there is need for clarification. The video is 80% of your win.



-- Don’t submit videos that use subtitles — you’ll lose the jet-lagged jurors immediately.

-- Use the keep it simple, stupid (KISS) approach. Less is more: the more succinctly you articulate the problem, idea and results, the better.

-- I know you have a lot of data to share, because not only did you increase likes and shares, but also retweets, consumer-generated photo uploads — and sales, of course. Referencing my previous points: Don’t cram all that info into your video. Two or three critical results that tie directly back to the brand challenge will do just fine.

-- Judges are not stupid. We’ve seen submissions with data points like a 4100% increase in this and a 360% decrease in that. Obviously these numbers were not made up, but they were “fabricated” nonetheless, as they represented increases from a base that was close to zero. Judges do decode these types of “fantastic” results and judge them for what they are. Better to present real results that have meaning.

-- Finally, a no-brainer: Only submit great work that you are truly proud of. Judges don’t just judge for the awards event. Each judge also uses the work presented as a benchmark of who is “good” and “not so good,” and about an agency’s capability to deliver great work. And all judges, regardless of where they currently work, might use the cases as a yardstick of your desirability as a potential future work colleague.

In the end, for me the best work is something I wised I had played a role in creating.

Sadly, I witnessed a real sea of sameness in the “Best use of social media” category, where almost all campaigns talked about wanting to create a “movement” or “engaging a community of x” (moms, Millennials, etc.) by driving shares of brand-generated content, preferably with inclusion of a clever hashtag, followed by asking consumers to create their own photo or video content using the same idea, of course with inclusion of that same hashtag. In future, if you are preparing to enter anything along these lines, please urgently reconsider.

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