Entering Advertising Awards Shows? Here Are 5 Tips for Creating a Winning Entry

One Club CEO Kevin Swanepoel's advice on getting a jury's attention

Josh Rios - Editor
Headshot of David Griner

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic—If you’re going to listen to anyone about how to win at a creative awards show, it should probably be Kevin Swanepoel.

As CEO of The One Club for Creativity, Swanepoel oversees both the prestigious One Show awards and the nearly century-old ADC (Art Directors Club) Annual Awards, which merged into the One Club in 2016.

During the recent judging for both award programs—ADC and One Show juries have remained separate since the merger—in the Dominican Republic, Adweek caught up with Swanepoel to ask what advice he’d share with marketers who create case studies and other award entry materials.

As you can see in the video above, his advice boils down to five key tips:

1. Go easy on stats

Every case study likes to show ROI, but rather than share actual business stats (which clients generally keep under lock and key), marketers often focus on impressively massive social and PR stats. A million impressions? Why not a billion? Heck, make it 10 billion. Surely every human on Earth saw this campaign, right?

Award show jurors, as you might imagine, have long since developed stat fatigue.

“The judges, they’re not idiots,” Swanepoel says. “They can look at this, and they just clearly don’t need all these stats.”

2. Don’t be overly dramatic

Awards jurors have a lot of videos—often hundreds—to get through. They want you to get to the point, and no amount of dramatic buildup via stirring music or grandiose visuals is going to make them like your entry more. In fact, such an approach might hurt your case.

“By the time [these dramatic entries] get into it, I think the judges are really bored,” Swanepoel says. “Get your message across concisely in the first 10 to 15 seconds, otherwise you’re going to lose them.”

3. Include the full work

This might sound like obvious advice, but anyone who’s served on a creative jury can attest that some case studies almost seem more focused on burying their campaigns under mind-blowing stats rather than actually showing the work at the core of the entries.

“One of the big pet peeves for me is looking at a case study and then not even being able to see the work,” he says. “Sometimes they try to build a story around and idea in the case study and actually show very little of the work.”

4. Explain the cultural context

Some of the best creative campaigns are incredibly specific to the country or community where each idea emerged. While local audiences may understand the nuance behind each campaign, global jurors might not.

Swanepoel encourages all case study creators to provide the quick cultural context that will help international audiences understand both the problem at issue and the innovative solution being proposed to solve it.

“Setting that up is key,” he says, “but I think you need to set it up fairly quickly.”

5. Before you send it, try a new perspective

Will your case study hold its own alongside some of the world’s best marketing campaigns? That’s not a question you necessarily have to save for the day of judging.

Swanepoel recommends that, before you send off an awards entry, you gather together case studies from some of the biggest award winners from recent years and drop your entry into the middle of them. Then have your team—or even outsiders—sit back, watch them all together and be honest with yourselves about whether yours is on an even footing with the others.

“That’s what they’re going to be seeing—they’re going to be seeing 20 case studies back to back,” he says of jurors. “How does your idea sit, and how quickly does it come across?”

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."