Last month, we had an idea: to take the opportunity with our monthly Brave Dog Bark newsletter to open up the field to questions from anyone interested in knowing more about award competitions.
So this month, we’re answering a few of the burning questions the come our way. Our goal with answering these questions is to help shed light on the world of award competitions—specifically the ones angled at TV promotions that we’ve been working in for years—and help anyone, whether they’re our partners or not, to learn what they need to know to be effective in pursuing the recognition they deserve.
Dive in below for the answers to five questions that will help you whether you’re working with Brave Dog or entering on your own. And if you’ve got more you need to know, just ask—we’re always standing by to help.
How do we know if something is worth entering?
There are a lot of factors that can make a piece of creative “award worthy,” but a simple go-to litmus test is to ask yourself this question: “Am I proud of it?” Award-winning pieces are unique in their ability to stand out in crowd. They grab hold of the viewer’s attention. They surprise and delight. They’re clever and creative. They’re memorable.
What makes something “award-worthy” isn’t a catch-all standard, however, so keep in mind that what you love about your work can be just as variable. If your campaign or piece weathered a major disaster that would have otherwise crushed it, that ability to overcome is probably worth an award. If your work managed to turn a bad situation into a good one, there’s a competition and a category into which it’ll fit perfectly. If your piece represented bravery on the part of its creators, or was a risky proposition that turned into a major success, you should enter it. The point is, award-winners aren’t just the things with the biggest budgets, the funniest ideas, or the most out-of-the-box creativity. Whatever element makes you proud of your work, it’s something that also makes it unique—and potentially award-winning.
How can I improve my chances of winning?
When it comes to entering advertising and marketing work, a great campaign is the most important, and we’ll absolutely help you make your entry strong with a killer write-up or video. But before we can help you, you can help us!
Competitions often don’t just want to see the actual work you created—they want to know the story of how it was created. What were the challenges you faced in creating it and how did you overcome them? What problems was it meant to solve? How was it received by the public? Having answers to those questions makes an interesting piece of work into a tale of success and adversity overcome, and that’s often the thing judges want to know to make one piece of work stand out from the pack.
So for a leg-up in competitions and to help us at Brave Dog, you can do a great job of documenting your campaign from the early development stages through the finish.
- Photograph everything. Get shots of billboards (and all outdoor promotions) in their environment, take photos and video at events and include moments of consumers interacting with your promotions. Quality is very important here: in many competitions, judges will look at entry photos on big screens, but even on a computer screen, photos need to be clear, sharp and detailed. We recommend hiring a professional photographer and/or videographer to document everything. Sorry, but that camera on your phone just doesn’t make for award-winning assets, and won’t impress any judges.
- Keep multiple samples of collateral press kits and general giveaway items. Sometimes influencers will post unboxing videos online, so save links to these and take screenshots of any online praise. Photos of the physical asset are okay sometimes, but judges are more likely to see how excellent your premium item is if they can handle the physical object. (Not to mention, some competitions won’t accept entries for press kits or giveaways unless you can provide the actual asset.)
- Keep live any websites you want to present, even if your campaign is over. If this isn’t possible, create a video that captures the consumer experience for judges. (We can help with this!)
- Social media campaigns can be difficult to represent in awards competitions. Videos of how the campaign worked and how online users responded are a great way to show creativity and effectiveness.
One more tip: Put time and effort into your marketing deck
We’ve seen all kinds of marketing decks come across our desks, some more helpful than others. As a guide to our partners, here’s a wish list of everything we think makes for the best deck, and inevitably allows us to seamlessly create the strongest possible competition entries without a lot of questions back to you, or rounds of edits to videos and write-ups.
- Keep it simple: Most decks come to us in the form of PowerPoint presentations. With this being the case, your challenge is to tell your story with as much detail as possible, but also in a way that’s clear and concise.
- Create an outline: Start by creating some kind of rough outline or executive summary that lays out the full scope of your campaign. Are you going to be talking about an integrated campaign? A social media campaign? Digital campaign? List what forms of media drove that campaign: Print, Outdoor, On-air, online, cinema, Comic-Con, etc. This creates a template for you to follow and gives you the opportunity to pause and consider/state why you chose the marketing avenues that you did. It’ll also help us determine what specific competitions and categories your work has a chance to thrive in.
- State your objective: Include a slide that’s dedicated to your objectives. Your goals may be obvious to you, but they’re not necessarily clear to others.
- State your campaign strategy: Include a strategy section. Who was your audience? How did you plan to reach them? What insight led you to this plan?
- Be honest about your weaknesses: Many of our partners default to presenting their work as being an obvious victory from start to finish, but this doesn’t make for a good story, and judges don’t buy it—they know that creating great work almost always includes setbacks and challenges. So instead, be willing to embrace your limitations and setbacks and explain how you overcame them to create something you’re proud of. Make mention of the challenges you faced: Small budget? Controversy? Genre fatigue? Cluttered TV landscape? Judges love a story of how you overcame obstacles to succeed, and setbacks highlight the quality of your work all the more.
- Include all of your assets: Some of the best decks we’ve seen include an index made up entirely of high-quality JPEGs of all assets. We may request higher-quality images later, but this way, everything is accounted for, in one place and in context, and we can fully understand the entire scope of your work. Meanwhile, links and videos can be sent to us as a cohesive package separately via Dropbox or WeTransfer.
- We’re not intimidated by length: Don’t try to squeeze too much onto one slide—and don’t be afraid to use more slides in order to create a deck that’s easier to read. Completeness is the goal.
- Data: Make note of where your information/numbers are coming from so that we can accurately source it later.
- Results: Were you successful? Why or why not? What did you learn? Make these questions a part of a results section, because the judges will be asking them.
Why can’t we use the images from our marketing deck?
Short answer: They’re too small!
Every competition has different minimum sizing and resolution requirements when it comes to submitting assets. But what we’ve found that all competitions have in common is that photos and even video taken from a PowerPoint deck just never make the cut. Judges are often viewing assets on a very large screen or some other kind of high-resolution format, which is why these requirements are in place. Your work just won’t shine if you don’t meet the requirements and consequently, you won’t win. Including high-quality assets is key to presenting your work in the best light you can, so don’t undercut yourself with low-res photos or videos before judges have even seen what you have to offer.
When do I need a video?
There are times when a few photos and a leftover cocktail napkin just don’t do the job. When there’s a story to tell that can’t be summed up in a single image or on-air spot, we recommend producing a video. This usually includes any kind of guerrilla stunt, interactive exhibition or experiential campaign. Video is also crucial when there are a multitude of moving parts as is the case with integrated marketing campaigns.
Essentially, we’ve found that if the story of your work isn’t too obvious from the work itself, video is the right call. Judges often appreciate videos as well, because it gives them a quick overview of the context for your work, and lets you include all the relevant information, as well as several different facets of the piece, all in one place. If you have an inkling that a person unfamiliar with your work might be confused by it, you probably want to create a video.
If I could only enter one competition, which one would you recommend and why?
For marketing and advertising, this question becomes a lot easier to answer if we are able to review all of your creative from the past year. There are lots of different kinds of competitions out there and some even focus specifically on a specific medium, like out-of-home, word-of-mouth marketing, social media, print, digital, and more.
But if we had to choose just one competition accolade to shoot for, at least when it comes to the majority of our partners, it’d probably be PromaxBDA. It’s the most popular competition for our partners to enter.
PromaxBDA runs the gamut of pretty much every kind of medium (experiential excluded, unfortunately) and is confined to television marketing. That means you’re competing with your direct peers, many of whom have similar marketing budgets, rather than the entire world of advertising.
At Brave Dog, we work hard to be award competition experts, and this is just a taste of the information and expertise that’s available from our team. If you’ve got more questions, we’re happy to answer them, so send them along. And if you find yourself lost in the world of awards, come find us. We’re always ready to help.