5 things you need to win communications industry awards

The 2016 award seasons is over. The APAs (Association of Practitioners in Advertising), the MSK (Marketing Society of Kenya) Gala Awards, and the PRSK (Public Relations Society of Kenya) Awards for Excellence were all held in Nairobi over the last month. I’d like to dedicate this moment to the winners, those who put their best foot forward and blazed new trails in marketing communications to chart new courses for the industry. What you have achieved goes down in history and we celebrate the vision on your mind, the courage in your heart and the work of your hands. Our industry depends on our collective action and when the majority produce great campaigns the industry rises, and it is critical that we identify and recognize our best, setting the standards for both veterans and the rookies who will lead us into the future.

The major difference between the APAs on one hand and the MSK and PRSK awards on the other, is that the former recognizes creativity and requires evidence that the campaigns run in the media — they will not accept concepts that have never seen the light of day. MSK and the PRSK go beyond creativity and demand a demonstration of the results of a campaign based on stated goals, and the best award entries leave no doubt in the judges minds that they have achieved what they set out to do. Even though each approach is different, they serve their respective sub-sectors perfectly well.

This year, a starved advertising industry received the APAs with aplomb after a 12 year hiatus and there were over 400 submissions sent before the judges. Prior to this, creatives sent their work to MSK and PRSK in the absence of any advertising awards, increasing the number of entries to both. The MSK received 238 entries while the PRSK received 48 highlighting the fact that PR is much more specialized than marketing, right from the academics, to the practice and to the regulation.

Irrespective of the number of entries, Pareto’s principle was certainly at work here with about 20 percent of the entries being truly outstanding, and the majority being mediocre and poor. What the winners demonstrated is the ability to orchestrate the industry forces to act in their favor with an understanding of the critical success factors and setting sequences to deliver a great result.

The first of the critical success factors is a Brave Client. These clients tend to know exactly what they want out their campaigns and are willing to take great creative risk to achieve their aims. A majority of them have marketing communications ingrained in their DNA, such as the multinational brands that have long heritage. Others are new to the game which are mainly grass root brands, and Duracoat and their character Peter Marangi come to mind. Their ideas have top level buy-in and they understand that risk means that either grand success or spectacular failure will be the outcome, but no new ground can be broken without it. They back up their actions with follow through and determination because hesitation and doubt can lead to self-sabotage.

The second element is a Big Budget, which is needed to round up the resources to deliver a world-beating campaign. ‘Make no small plans, because small plans have no magic to stir mens’ blood (or win marketshare)’ goes the saying. A substantial budget is required to collect market data, assemble the best teams and vendors who have the will and ability to create and innovate, using adequate tools and materials. Invest significantly in your communication agencies because if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Thirdly, Deep Insight is needed as a platform to build a sustainable campaign and as Ogilvy said ‘an ad without a big idea will sail like a ship in the night’. Research is just one of the elements, but it is critical to know your audiences intimately and what drives them, so that your campaign can hit the right notes. Remember, that it is less about the answers you get and more about the questions you ask.

The fourth factor is Inspired Talent, the type that will follow you to hell and back. Leo Burnett in his valedictory speech as he bowed out of the industry, said that you can take his name out of the door when we lose respect for the lonely man; the man or woman sitting diligently behind their typewriter or drawing board, working throughout the night to produce an ad concept or a media plan; and through their hard work and dedication they are able to, even momentarily, grab one of the shiny stars; and it is because of him or her that we succeed as an agency.

Finally, each winning campaign is able to provide Demonstrated Results based on their original goals. These results are the main ingredient to build up confidence in the C-Suite, giving them belief in their marketing teams and, more importantly, courage; the courage to take risks and commission incredible campaigns with the potential to win awards.

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