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Straight From an Awards Juror: How to Write an Effective Effectiveness Entry

Leo Burnett USA strategist Nic Chidiac on the five things he learned as a juror at Dubai Lynx 2016.

I recently had the pleasure of being a juror on the Creative Effectives panel at the Dubai Lynx. This is the first time I have actually been on the judging side, but I have worked on, written, reviewed and “cased up” more than 50 entries in my career, especially for the Effies.

So of course I thought I knew a lot. But judging at Lynx was a rewarding, and humbling, experience. Below is the straightforward advice I would give myself and the people I’ve worked with were I able to go back in time to improve the odds.

Keep it simple, keep it short.
An effectiveness story is usually a simple one. Your judges are senior members of organizations who are probably time poor, lack patience and are possibly even jet-lagged. While not the case at the Lynx, I have spoken to jury members across other festivals who told me that they simply didn’t have the time to read the case studies properly and relied on the video edits. Look for opportunities to give jurors shortcuts into your story: Keep the language simple, bold specific sections of the papers that you feel are important, and use clear section titles to guide readers. Also, take care that your charts make quantitative material more digestible, not more complex. And keep your video entries short and to the point.

Don’t claim you took over the world (even if you did, nobody will believe you).
Never forget the people judging your entries are industry folks: In short, they are cynics. Their BS sensors are on high alert, and shoot up in any instance of overselling, exaggeration and overly dramatic video edits. Furthermore, they have a very grounded point of view on what advertising can or cannot accomplish. Social currency in the jury room is calling bullshit on something that turns out to be bullshit, so that’s pretty much what they’re looking to do. Keep it honest, but more importantly, keep it humble. We awarded a case that admitted from the get go that it had not reached one of its key goals. In short, stop telling people you started a movement, calculating time spent on a website in years or telling people your budget was zero.

Tackle pessimism head on
At the end of every single effectiveness entry format is a little section that says, “Was there anything else going on…” This is arguably one of the most crucial parts of your paper, but is all too often neglected and answered with a simple “no.” Ask yourself: What are the three big external factors that a jury might attribute these results to? Is it seasonality, discounts, a competitive drop in spending, a new vehicle launch, etc? Use that final section to disqualify each factor with a little mention.

Fewer, more meaningful KPIs
Campaigns today leave a more robust trail of data than ever before; much of it is useful, more of it is not. Often superfluous data that is not instrumental can 1) distract from data that is important; 2) derail jury discussions off your crucial results; and 3) offer more surface area for a jury to poke holes in. If you do have multiple intermediary KPIs and associated metrics, place them against an appropriate communications-planning framework for the jury to understand why you’re tracking whatever you are tracking vs. just listing stuff. (That or just place them in the appendix.)

Offer context to help judges
Too often cases like those above are not placed against any real context. It’s like trying to accurately judge from a photograph how tall someone is against a plain white background. Showing a relationship between investment and return and placing results against benchmarks are instrumental in offering judges perspective on just how “tall” this campaign actually was.

Nicolas Chidiac is an SVP, strategy director, at Leo Burnett USA. He’s won numerous awards at the Effies and Lynx.