Advertising Awards

A Judge On How Not To Win An Advertising Award

I Am Stealing From A Genius To Help Your Agency Win An Advertising Award

Warning: I will be testy here. Despite the fact that advertising agencies love winning the big advertising award – they shoot themselves in the foot when writing the entry.

Too often agencies are really bad at how they write up their award entry. Given the number of the “We want to win” bucks agencies spend on creative and ROI awards — to fail at the application stage is insanity.

RFPs Too

Side note, after writing mucho RFP responses for my agency; talking with dozens of clients – who are often baffled by poorly written RFP responses; and reviewing RFP proposals assembled by my agency clients, I have to tell you that the same affliction is running rampant when agencies respond to RFPs. Reponses are often poorly written; rushed out the door; do not follow instuctions and on. But, that’s another blog post.

Back To Awards

You want that ad award…. here’s why… the wonderful, shiny, famous advertising award begets a range of benefits:

  • Fame. The fame equation is simple: advertising awards equal global and local industry awareness. Let’s go big. If you win a Cannes Lion or an ADDY more clients will hear about you. You can talk about your win on your agency website. But, even more people will hear about it in Ad Age, your local business journal and the award website itself.
  • Awards deliver third-party confirmation of your prowess. Awards deliver new client interest. Awards are proof that you are great at what you do. This is especially true when you consider the amorphous concept of ‘creativity’ and how wonderful it is when someone else calls you ‘creative’.
  • You get something new and shiny to talk about. If it is a big award, you can put it on your home page. And, even in your outbound marketing.
  • Your clients will receive confirmation that they made the right decision when they hired you. Some might even congratulate you.
  • Your agency staff feels really good.
  • You’ll use the award to entice talent to join up.
  • You will have a statue of some sort to put in your award-strewn agency reception area.

All good, right? However, over the years I have seen many hungry agencies fail at the actual art of writing award entries.

Yes, there is an art. When I worked at New York’s Dancer Fitzgerald Sample (the largest agency in New York) we prided ourselves on our ability to write great award entries. For a few years running, we won more EFFIES than any other agency because we understood how to meet the needs of EFFIES judges and had a smart, effective template. In fact, if you go to the EFFIES website, you can read award-winning case studies. But, right now I’d like you to stay with me.

Writing a smart, well-written advertising award entry seems like a no-brainer. But, for too many agencies, it is a no-brain act.

But… Don’t Take My Word For It (OK, Now The Genius Part) An Advertising Award Judge’s Perspective

I was scanning my Twitter feed and saw a post about horrendous advertising award entry writing written by global strategy evangelist Faris Yakob of Genius Steals.

These are Yakob’s revelations as an award judge.

Read it for yourself as proof of agency failures. But, here are the most glaring insights: entries sound alike; entries are not creative; people do not edit their entries; many agencies do not understand how to write a case study; agencies do not seem to understand the award judge audience and do not approach entry writing via strategic thinking. Yikes!

Advertising Award Mistakes Agencies Make



I offer a couple of easy pointers.

Have a strategic award marketing plan. This plan is a part of your annual business development plan. That means figure out what awards you should enter – have sound criteria. Have a master agency plan that includes a budget and timetable. Take the time to read what the judges want. Understand what will motivate them. Take a hard look at past winners and case studies. Proofread.

A List Of Advertising Awards.

Here’s a head start for you.


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