What makes awards worth pursuing?
At Brave Dog, it’s a question we find ourselves answering a lot. For some, competitions seem like a lot of effort. Is it worth spending time, effort and money just to earn some hardware for the office wall?
We think so — Brave Dog founders Stephen McCarthy and Juan-Carlos Castano saw a need among creatives and their companies to help them enter. But there are plenty of strong reasons to go for awards that go beyond earning a pat on the back.
Understanding what makes competitions important — and what makes work award-worthy — opens up a whole world for businesses and creators in ways that can boost their reputations, provide inspiration and push them toward excellence. Here’s a little about what Brave Dog does and why we do what we do, from CEO Stephen McCarthy, Vice President of Operations Juan-Carlos Castano, and Account Manager Caitlin Hornshaw.
What makes awards important?
Brave Dog understands the essential value of peer judged competitions for excellence—underneath all the hype surrounding award competitions in the entertainment industry, the goal is to recognize the bedrock of industry best practices, and the ability to recognize excellence that raises the level of quality for creative endeavors throughout the industry. And that can be applied to any discipline, not just entertainment.
Most every person likes to be recognized for their good ideas, for the positive results of a well-planned campaign, for the ingenuity and cleverness of a piece of creative. The recognition by one’s peers validates our worth as an intrinsic part of a process. Awards are the measure that helps set new standards of quality and professionalism.
It’s a good feeling to win an award, to feel recognized for your hard work by key authorities in the field. But awards can have benefits that go beyond the boost to office morale.
The creative industry is—well, creative. And the amount of talent out there is astounding. It can be difficult to stand out and seem unique. It’s one thing to say that you’re the best, it’s another to have the accolades to back it up. Winning an award is a great way to cut through the clutter and make a bold statement about the quality of your work.
While winning awards can help a company as a whole, it can also have benefits for you individually. If you’re lucky enough to win numerous awards or the same award year after year, it will show your bosses that you’re dedicated to making sure that your projects are consistently strong—and it might be time for a promotion.
The whole goal of Brave Dog as a company is to be award competition experts. With the field of competitions being so broad, what does that entail?
The most significant way we hone our cred as award experts is by how well we develop each specific relationship with each of our partners. Our goal is to represent our partner companies to the very best of our ability. That means we must talk the partner’s talk and walk the partner’s walk. We must understand their specific business goals, who they wish to target with their messaging, and how they wish to speak to those target audiences.
And ultimately, it means understanding what goes into our partners’ work and having in-depth knowledge of a lot of different competitions.
Each of our partners have their own body of work and unique brand style—not to mention different internal priorities. That being the case, it’s actually to our benefit to have dozens of competitions available to us. We often use carefully devised strategy to find the perfect competitions and categories to enter.
There are many general advertising and marketing competitions out there, but there are also some that have a specific focus: out of home, social media and its effect on TV viewership, word-of-mouth marketing, general internet excellence, and so on. Many times we are also able to find competitions with very specific categories. Say the partner has an original composition in a spot or grabs some attention for a really cool illustration on a billboard—there are special craft categories for those. Was the campaign executed on a tight budget? Some competitions have “Shoe String Budget” categories. Did an experiential marketing campaign blow the socks off everyone at SXSW? We’ll find a place for it.
Another big part of our model is the ability to understand what is required from award competition organizers to maximize the potential of a particular entry to win recognition. A combined 15 years of managing a large marketing, promotion and design award competition have given us the opportunity to understand what makes a submitted piece award-worthy. It has also taught us how to avoid mistakes that may disqualify entries. This knowledge can be applied to every submission, regardless of the type of competition.
So what makes something award-worthy?
As with any competition situation, only the very best wins. In our main industry, design and promotion, what makes an award-worthy entry is creativity, originality, excellent execution, and more often than not, superb results. Judges like to recognize work that shows innovation and lack of restrain. ideas that challenge the status quo of the industry, and open the path for newer, higher standards.
To determine if a piece of creative is “award worthy,” I ask myself some questions:
-Does this grab hold of my attention?
-Does it surprise me?
-Is it clever or creative?
-Is this a fresh idea or does it feel cliché?
-Is it memorable? (Will I think about this piece again?)
-What are the piece’s strengths and weaknesses?
-Does this piece meet the objective of the campaign?
-Did it have measurable, quantitative success?
Brave Dog does a lot of work with advertising and marketing competitions. When it comes to trends in those arenas, what’s making you excited for the future?
The most rewarding aspect of what we do, is to be witness of new developments in the industry. The seamless merging of technology and creativity is always an exciting process to watch. Many times what starts as a “out of the box” idea becomes the standard across the industry in a short time. It is that initial effort to push through an idea “against all odds” that makes our work so special and interesting.
It’s been really exciting watching virtual reality emerge into the world of marketing in the last year. I was completely overwhelmed by all of the cool stuff at this year’s SDCC, and many TV networks and film studios were able to dazzle with immersive experiences that people were genuinely excited to be a part of, while still boosting bottom lines. Now that VR isnearly mainstream (now that we’re through the releases of consumer headsets like Oculus Rift, Sony’s Morpheus, Samsung’s Gear VR and HTC’s Vive), it will be fun to watch as these experiences become more involved and begin to reach people in their homes.
Last year, GE set a new standard in content marketing. The brand collaborated with Slate’s podcast network Panapoly to create an eight-part hit podcast called “The Message.” Conceived by GE’s in-house media agency The Grid, along with BBDO New York, the story follows a fake popular-science series called “Cyphercast,” about cryptographers investigating mysterious alien transmissions. It’s a science-fiction story, written by playwright Mac Rogers, that connect listeners with what the GE brand is about, without necessarily selling the GE brand. The story was a ton of fun to listen to and one that left me wanting more.
Where premium series were once a rarity, they now arrive in multitudes on streaming services and cable networks, and this platinum age of television has shown us that people everywhere crave excellent storytelling. I can’t say for sure if I see the world of marketing putting out tons of projects in the same vein as “The Message,” but I would feel so refreshed and inspired if more brands did start to head in that direction.
The world of advertising and marketing is changing just as fast as entertainment and culture, and Brave Dog is always keeping an eye on the shifts taking place in the world of awards, from every angle and across a variety of industries. We’re standing by to lend our expertise to you.