It’s a huge accomplishment to win a CLio Key Art Award — especially since the awards have become even more competitive in recent years.
This year, Brave Dog was invited to observe the Clio judging process, and we found it to be a very eye-opening and valuable experience. While we won’t be discussing individual creative entries or judges, we did gain a lot of insights about the judging process in general. Here were some of the key takeaways I learned from the two judging sessions I personally attended.
1. The CLIO Key Art Awards value Creativity and Originality over all
The marching orders for judges to critique entries at this Key Art Awards were to focus on two things: Creativity and Originality. That means those two ideas should be at the forefront of any work you want to enter into the competition. Judges in the sessions I observed asked themselves questions like, “Do you wish you thought of this idea? Does it inspire you? What does it say about the industry as a whole?” Entries that invoke positive answers to questions in the direction of these are the ones that are going to do well at the Key Art Awards.
Having this focus in mind is also a good way to stream out any work you might be on the fence about. When choosing what to enter, focus on those two elements above all—anything that doesn’t fit the bill will be a waste of time and entry fees.
It’s also worth noting that there were no minimums or maximums in terms of awards in each category—a category could have five Gold winners, or none. That means entrants don’t necessarily need to worry about overloading a category or their own entries blocking each other. If you’ve got lots of original, creative work that you feel really stands out, enter it.
2. Enter high-quality assets!
At Brave Dog, we’re constantly emphasizing the need for strong, high-resolution assets that look good at large sizes. The Clio Key Art Awards website lists asset requirements of 3,000 x 2,400 pixels (300 dpi) per asset, and we saw first-hand why that is. All assets were screened for judges in a theater on a big screen, and we saw a few pieces that likely fell under the resolution requirement. As a result, just didn’t look very strong in front of the judges.
Brave Dog always recommends using the highest-quality assets you can, because it always makes a difference. This is an easy way to put your best foot forward when it comes to judging, and an even easier way to shoot yourself in the foot with low-quality assets.
3. Consistency and Vision matter
When we observed Key Art Awards judging, we learned a lot about what the judges, all of whom hailed from creative agencies, considered to be the most important aspects about successful, award-worthy campaigns. A big thing: judges want to see fluidity and consistency between pieces in campaigns.
In the sessions we observed, we found that judges generally disliked feeling that multiple pieces of a campaign were just lumped together because they launched around the same time. In fact, judges discussed how they imagined entrants thinking they could slip in three entries as a campaign mostly to avoid splitting the vote. In other words, judges want to see campaigns that are just as creative and original as their individual efforts, and if you’re submitting a campaign, you’re going to want to be sure that it operates as a whole as well as its individual parts. We also noticed that judges appreciated campaigns that were dynamic in their elements but consistent in their tone or feeling, more than campaigns that repeated images or elements in different context. The more creative and challenging a campaign is in its vision and conception, the better.
4. Use only your best jokes
Humor is a huge part of marketing and advertising, but if you’re entering your humorous entries, be sure the work’s comedy game is up to snuff. Judges at the Key Art Awards have heard their share of jokes in ads and seen their share of ads that are jokes — since most judges were from creative agencies at 2016’s Key Art Awards, it’s fair to say they’ve even created quite a few. And we saw that judges wanted to see more from jokes than the obvious.
Judges panned creative they saw as “too obvious” or “too on-the-nose,” and they appreciated jokes that go beyond what’s in the ad. So take a creative, cerebral tack when possible, because the creative that resonates is the more clever, original stuff. Avoid cliches and try to break new ground whenever possible — the judges notice both!
5. Take risks!
At the Clio Key Art Awards last year, the biggest winners were often the most daring. In the judging sessions we observed, we saw that play out at every level — judges appreciate creative that’s willing to push the envelope, try new things, and court the possibility of failure in order to do something new and exciting.
In fact, those entries that probably required their creators to fight to get their vision made, that was provocative and powerful and might have made people in their organizations a little uncomfortable, were what the judges liked to see most. And often, those entries were rewarded. So if you’re worried an entry you’re proud of could be too risque for one reason or another, take heart: You’re probably looking at a winner that others will appreciate as well.
6. Tell your story visually and creatively
In our sessions of Key Art judging, we saw that when creative had video to go with it that told the story of how it was created, how it was successful, and what it’s challenges were, judges appreciated it. Video case studies and explainers provide unique insight into a campaign that can, at times, tip the scales, because it gives the judges a deeper understanding of what the vision for an entry was and what difficulties its creators had to make it through to create it.
Those stories are great! As human beings, we’re more interested in tales of triumph over adversity than of smoothly coasting to victory. We saw judges reacting to what they perceived as the difficulty of attacking a particular project as well as its final products. If you can tell such a story about your entry, it can enrich the experience of the judges as they see your point of view and determine whether an entry achieved what it set out to do. Video is a perfect way to do this, because it’s easy for judges to consume and gets the point across concisely. Consider using it!
7. Choose your categories wisely
Where you place your entry in the Key Art Awards is an important decision. Accurately describing your piece plays well with judges, but if you’re stuffing an entry into a category that doesn’t quite fit it—an entry that’s thin on comedy placed in a comedy category because it contains a joke or two, for instance—they notice. The Key Art Awards are top-tier, and judges are wary of entries that feel lazy or categorized in order to take advantage of a technicality.
In our sessions, we noticed that Clio even asked judges to reassign entries if they thought they were miscategorized. They would ask themselves whether multi-genre entries really did mix genres, if they were uniform in the things they combined, or if they really belonged somewhere else.
The takeaway is not to be haphazard about how you categorize your entries, because judges are paying attention. Place your entries in the categories where you feel they’re strongest, and resist multi- or mixed-genre categorization unless an entry really, truly must be there.
The opportunity to observe the Clio Key Art Awards’ judging was such an invaluable experience for us. This kind of insight is what continues to make us the best at what we do—winning you awards for your hard work. We pay attention to the little details so you don’t have to. If you have any questions or need any help putting your entries together, know that you can call on us at anytime. Keep being creative!