In this Cannes UnCanned session, attendees learned what it takes to craft a winning entry for the B&T Awards, with insights from winning agency CHE Proximity’s Chris Howatson and one of the Awards’ regular jury members, Emma Jensen – Director, Go-to-Market, Optus.
Howatson and Jensen took a deep dive into what it means to win a B&T Award, the importance of awards, deciding what work gets entered, how the judging process works, how to answers the hard questions and so much more in this jam-packed session.
On why awards are important and not just for “boastful agencies”, Howatson said: “Awards ceremonies give you an opportunity to think about your business and get your proposition right. It helps make sure that you’re considered in the category where you play your strongest.
“And I think for those two reasons, if we all truly understand the benefits from that point of view, it removes that sort of vanity metric that awards are just for boastful agencies or agencies that aren’t really worried about commercial outcomes, but it’s the absolute opposite. Those things are what drives an agency forward. ”
From a judge’s point of you, Jensen said what she loves about judging the B&T Awards is the inspirational work, as well as hearing from agencies about what really sets them apart.
“I think it is really interesting being on the other side and being one of the judges because what you really see across both the written and the presentations and the live judging is an agency coming to life.
“And for me, what I’ve loved about being involved in the awards, is the ability just to see so much inspirational work.”
The one question she always asks when judging?
“I always ask, ‘what is the one thing that sets you apart?’ Because we’ll have maybe 10 to 15 agencies that we see on the day, and if you don’t really nail what your key message is and why you are different, it’s easy just to blend into the crowd.”
On deciding what work gets entered, Howatson said it’s a good idea to think about your agency proposition and narrative and showcase the work that solves that narrative.
He said: “Our best people are always the people who run our awards, and I think that’s just because it’s not just a submission. We’re not just ticking boxes. Your agency proposition is the narrative, and then the work has to solve that narrative. I think that’s what’s really important.
“You can’t say you’re really good at A, and then do a whole lot of work examples that don’t prove that you’re good at A.
“You’re also looking for work that has some level of fame and understanding, something the judges would have hopefully seen, and then some other bits and pieces. ”
Speaking to how she sifts through the first round of entries, Jensen said it’s important agencies remember the judges are assessing on the criteria.
She said: “I tend to do a quick scan through all the submissions and then really go through in detail and we really assess heavily against the criteria. You’d be surprised how many agencies, just miss out on one of the criteria and, you know, it’s hard to mark you in that way.”
Howatson offered this advice: “When you’re an agency responding, layout the response in the structure of the criteria, but make it easier for the judge.”
Jensen also talked about her surprise at the some of the submissions and their lack of creativity.
“It’s interesting because we’re in such a visual industry and the submissions you sometimes get, sometimes it’s like a year 12 essay, which always surprises,” she said.
“You need to be clear on what your key messages are. The second thing for me is just be authentic. I think it’s amazing how on some submissions even in writing that the real heart and the personality of the agency comes across and others, it feels like it’s just behind a mask. That’s another important point when you’re looking at what you put in your submission: just be you, in all your authentic glory. Be you and really celebrate who you are as an agency.
“Those are things that I would really look for when I get the hard copy submissions, and then I see how it translates into the live judging.”
On the hardest question Howatson has ever received and how he responded, he said there are always going to be “prickly” judges and questions, so preparation is key.
He said: “There’s always a prickly room. There are some rooms with some lovely judges and then rooms with prickly judges. What is tricky is everybody often wants to know what didn’t go well, and what you did about it. That’s a big question that often comes up.
“Every question can be a tricky question if you’re not really prepared for it. I think it comes down to the preparation before you go into the room and to know who’s answering what subject matter. We have a rule that no one can answer in addition to the person who answered the question, otherwise, everybody has a go.
“Tricky questions can always be managed, but it’s how you manage it, and it requires preparation and clarity.”
You can watch the full session HERE with more amazing tips on how to win a B&T Award.
Massive thanks to our Cannes UnCanned sponsors!
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