The magic formula for winning awards

The One Club's CEO offers his "best ever" advice on how to make the award entry process more effective and less arduous

The secret to winning an award is to submit something good.  There’s really no getting around that. So if you were expecting a magic formula that ensures success irrespective of quality then you should stop reading now. 

But this advice also comes with a caveat: Submitting something good isn’t enough either.  My tips below won’t turn your entry into a winning one if your submission isn’t fundamentally strong, but they may improve your chances of winning if it is.

Submit early. There’s that pitch and then there’s that global launch and those proofs have to be reviewed and then … We know, you’re busy.  We appreciate that and will do the best we can to accommodate you, but it’s in your best interest to submit early.

Last-minute efforts are always fraught with unforeseen complications: technical difficulties with your online submission, prolonged delays when submitting physical work. Also, if you have questions, we have fewer and fewer resources to help you as we get closer to the final deadline.  If you’re informed and prompt, we will be better able to help you through the process.

Choose wisely. This may sound strange coming from someone whose organization thrives on a large pool of awards submissions, but submitting an entry for all categories under the sun won’t improve your chances of winning and may even weaken them. 

Some entrants believe that if they submit their work for consideration six times within a discipline, their chances will improve sixfold. The reality, however, is that judges are people who are susceptible to desensitization and annoyance. 

If they see a good submission once, it’s fresh and original.  If they see it five more times, it becomes trite and overbearing. 

Also, if you’re submitting a piece of work across different disciplines and categories, customize your case study videos for that particular discipline.  Otherwise, judges may be left wondering what the social or mobile component was if it wasn’t spelled out in the case study video.  Avoid the shotgun approach.  Take your time and do your homework.

"It is what it is." There is a tendency for entrants to alter the work they are submitting to make it seem more impressive. For example, print work being enlarged, video content being re-edited, etc.  But the work should always speak for itself as it ran. 

Best tip ever! You don’t realize how often people use the phrases "first ever," "best ever" and "one and only" until you’ve reviewed thousands of awards submissions.  Employing such clichés dilutes the strength of your message. 

It’s better to be specific about what makes your work unique, timely or well executed.  Similarly, don’t dwell too much on accolades and publicity.  Doing so indicates insecurity about the work itself.  Judges pick up on that.

Less is more. Many of our categories require two-minute videos. Some entrants disregard that parameter and submit videos well over the limit, which can be irritating to judges who are sequestered in a room watching hours upon hours of video.  Be direct and get to the point quickly. More is not always better.

Let’s get physical/digital. If you’re submitting digital work, make sure you’re submitting the highest quality, highest resolution possible.  When reviewing work, we use state-of-the-art equipment that can make poor-quality images or videos stand out even more. If you’re submitting something physical, mail the physical component.  Don’t submit an image as a digital proxy.

In other words, don’t scrimp, because every detail influences the judges’ impressions of your submission.

"There’s an app for that." New technologies can enable creative campaigns never seen before, but creating an app just for the sake of creating an app, for example, is not the way to go.

 Judges respond to the concept first.  If the underlying tech is integral to the idea, you’ve hit a home run.  If not, you’re selling nothing more than a gimmick. 

It’s a numbers game. Data can be critical to a creative campaign, but if the data included in your submission has a tenuous connection to the campaign, judges will become frustrated trying to connect the dots.  If you’re including statistics, make sure they’re right.  Digital judges especially will drill down if you claim there was a 5,000 percent increase in likes. 

And finally… Remember that judges are people. I think there’s an assumption that the awards submissions process is automatic — a well-oiled machine that spits out winners.

We maintain exacting standards, but our judges, while leaders in their fields, are human beings.  They spend hours upon hours in dark rooms, critiquing thousands of pieces of work.  Follow these tips to make it easier on them (and yourself). 

Kevin Swanepoel is the chief executive officer of The One Club.

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