Big News! We won Ad Age Small Agency of the Year.

february 14, 2020

Bringing Home the Gold

Meara bridges & Greg Nobles

I’m going to let you in on a secret; there are two key components to keeping an advertising agency alive—fresh, impeccably-crafted, compelling creative, and great clients who recognize the value of that level of creative. How do you secure both of these coveted traits for your agency? Awards.

Winning awards puts a spotlight on your company. They give credibility to your business and validate the quality of the work you’re producing. They also catch the eye of the best clients—the kind who want to take their company to new heights, understand the value of great work, and have been looking for an agency like yours to take them on that wild, imaginative ride. Awards are great PR, but the good they bring doesn’t stop there.

Looking to keep your company blood fresh and current? Guess what, you need awards. Knowing your work could win big encourages a healthy competition among creatives and pushes them to make the work better. In turn, winning awards gives those same people validation and the drive to win more. Award-winning work catches the eye of prospective future employees as well, because great creatives want to work where their ideas will be valued; awards signify a company culture that upholds that workplace desire.

Now that you know why awards matter, let’s look at how to choose award-worthy entries.

Know your competition.

To play to win, you have to be a student of the game. Any award-winning agency—even international—is your competition. So study up! Find the work that sparks jealousy for not thinking of it first. Know what’s winning globally and hold yourself to that standard, because when you raise the bar on your performance you can compete at any level.

Check your ego.

Choosing award submissions requires objectivity. Judges don’t place value on the people behind the idea or the effort that went into it. They rank the work based on craft, how it makes them feel, if it shifted the needle, and if it served the brand well. So set aside your empirical project knowledge and review with fresh eyes.

Now that you’ve learned to walk, you’re ready to run. Let these three tactics guide you in refining your selection of work to enter for awards:

First, go with what grabs you.

When you’re reviewing the work, what catches your eye? Sure, it may be a bedazzled ad in neon colors, but it probably isn’t. An arresting visual is just as much, if not more, about how it makes you feel than it is about the bells and whistles. A quiet moment can be a show stopper, just as much as a marching band. Find what grabs you and won’t let go.

Now, what’s clever?

After choosing the attention-grabbers, take time to investigate the merit of their pull. Does the work have an idea? Good. Now more importantly, does it have an original idea? Good ideas are like clichés—they’re a dime a dozen. But an original thought, strategy, or a fresh spin that makes something old feel new is what makes the work great.

Finally, take a closer inspection.

It’s time to scrutinize your culled selection. It might be well-written, but is it beautifully-worded? Is it a world of rivers, orphans, widows, and messy rags, or is it masterfully typeset? Has the work seen a color session, or does it feel generic? This minutia is the distinction between great work and winning work. So check your craft, and make sure it’s on-point.

Remember, the first step towards winning an award is entering.

In the end, nothing’s guaranteed. But practicing everything mentioned here will keep you current on your competition and continue to propel you and your work into the world of award-winning advertising. This awareness will give you a fighting chance to take home something fresh and exciting—and I’m not just talking about the award. The renewed sense of achievement and the boost in creative vigor can be just as energizing.

January 27th marks the Northeast Tennessee American Advertising Federation’s American Advertising Awards drop-off party. If you’re a local, stop by Gypsy Circus Cider Company in Kingsport, Tennessee between 5:30-8:00 p.m. And if you’re not lucky enough to be creating great work in the shadow of the northeast Tennessee mountains, locate your local American Advertising Federation chapter for a drop-off party near you.