How to create award-winning work

You've probably heard that us agency folk are obsessed with awards.

Sure, we all say that they don’t mean anything, and they aren’t a true recognition of excellent work – that is until we win one. Then out comes the champagne, the tweets, the press releases and *ahem* articles in The Drum.

This is because awards are a very necessary evil.

Client-side marketers also enjoy winning awards and often use winners lists as a starting point for shortlisting an agency. Awards, therefore, are an integral part of any self-respecting agency’s marketing plan. And let’s not forget that an awards ceremony is a superb opportunity for a morale-boosting night out for the team.

At Earnest, we’ve been fortunate to have won a range of awards over the years. In doing so, we’ve picked up a few techniques that can improve anyone’s odds of success:

1. Be brave, but MAYA

Our mantra at Earnest is to ‘chase the humdrum out of B2B marketing’. This means pushing ourselves, our clients, and our industry into doing the most interesting work possible.

But there’s another critical aspect that’s too often forgotten, which is about pragmatic reality: what is genuinely possible for the client in question?

We therefore follow the MAYA design principle (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) when coming up with creative and tactical ideas: what does success look like for the client? What does risky mean to them? What’s their appetite for disruption?

An example of this was our work for EVO Payments. Acting as a start-up within a large corporation, EVO’s appetite for pushing the boundaries in creativity was higher than a ‘typical’ B2B brand.

Where else could you get away with a ‘Friends with benefits’ guide complete with rose petals, car keys and Superman pants?

2. Work in partnership

With these MAYA principles in place, the emphasis moves to getting great work approved and out in-market.

We’ve found that it’s no longer a matter of selling in ideas to a client. Delivery is super critical and a great idea without a great delivery plan is pointless. The delivery approach that works best involves client and agency using resources and expertise on both sides, increasing an agency ecosystem which works together to create work that everyone takes pride in, and ownership for.

No egos. No-one being precious. Everyone feeling pride and ownership. Produce an award-winning campaign.

3. Be ruthless

From our experience, a ‘spray and pray’ approach to awards doesn’t work. It’s not a matter of the more you enter, the more you win. We find the opposite approach works best, which is why some of our favourite campaigns and pieces of creative work have never been seen by a judge.

We have a stringent quality control selection process for award entries that focuses on effectiveness and outcomes. To ensure that we have an impressive array of proven results at the end of a project, we push ourselves and our clients to set realistic and measurable KPIs from the offset.


We also recommend documenting all that you can during a project, including behind-the-scenes documentaries, photographing workshops, getting quotes from clients and partners – anything and everything that can help you bring the project to life for the judges.

So there you have it, and may the awards be with you.

(This article originally appeared on The Drum, November 2017)