Agency Awards that Win New Business

March 4, 2021

Awards season has always sparked fear in my heart. No, not those awards. I wish I meant the Golden Globes, Oscars, and Grammy’s, I really do. However, based on my agency experience, awards season meant that period between Q1 and Q2 where I submitted campaigns, and even company culture, for intense external review. My job was to find agency awards that win new business.

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Previously, awards submissions often felt like an unfair payoff. On top of my usual work, I also had to:

  • First, decide which ones to apply for.
  • Get budget approval for (overpriced) submission fees.
  • Interview the account managers, designers, and strategists about which projects to submit.
  • Hunt for photos, renderings, and sizzle reels of each project.
  • Answer dozens of painfully specific questions in 500-700 words responses.
  • Collect client feedback through multiple rounds of edits.
  • Actually, send the submissions.
  • Then, wait for months to know whether or not we won anything.
  • Repeat.

But, is it all worth it? The answer is, unfortunately, sometimes. Certain awards matter more than others based on their name recognition, cache, and industry influence as well.

Based on my experience, here are the agency awards that win new business and are actually worth the effort:

1)  Ad Age A-List and Creativity Awards

These awards celebrate the most accomplished agencies, standout work, and forward-thinking leaders and talents in the industry. Today, the long-running A-List is determined by the editorial staff at Ad Age, while the Creativity Awards winners are selected by top industry leaders. While the 2021 deadline has already passed, keep this one top of mind as you launch campaigns throughout this year to get ahead of 2022 submissions.

2)  Adweek’s Agency of the Year

For more than three decades, Adweek’s editors have honored each year’s most iconic agencies with the coveted title of Agency of the Year. The list, like the industry it draws from, has changed frequently, with some power players returning off and on, some dominating over several years, and others seeming to enjoy only brief moments of glory. Honorees are chosen across four categories: U.S., Global, Breakthrough (honoring emerging creative leaders), and International (celebrating innovative agencies rooted in home countries outside the U.S.):

3)  The Clio Awards

The annual award program recognizes innovation and creative excellence in advertising, design, and communication, as judged by an international panel of advertising professionals. According to its website, more than 80% of submissions are eliminated within the first two rounds. Juries then determine whether a work deserves to be included on the Shortlist, or receive a Bronze, Silver, or Gold medal. One work in each media type may be awarded the Grand Clio. The final deadline is April 16, 2021.

4)  The Webby Awards

These are a little different, awarding “excellence on the Internet” by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Categories include websites, advertising and media, online film and video, mobile sites and apps, and social. Two winners are selected in each category, one by members of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, and one by the public who cast their votes during Webby People’s Voice voting. Each winner presents a five-word acceptance speech, a trademark of the annual awards show.

5)  Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For

While this seems like a wildcard with its HR-facade, it’s not. Great companies to work for are also great companies to work with since employees who are professionally satisfied are more likely to put passion and care into the campaigns they create. Brands and media companies are likely to come across these listings when researching agencies that have issued RFPs.

6)  The Drum Awards

The Drum Awards is a global program, with competitions running throughout the year devoted to key facets of the marketing industry. Not only are they internally recognized, but The Drum is transparent about helping agencies understand and communicate the benefits of applying, creating content designed to answer questions upfront. Check out:

7)  The Cannes Lions Awards

My biggest flex is winning Grand Prix at the 2018 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for The Daily Show Presents: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library. The submission process nearly killed me, but the payoff is beyond comprehension.

Traditionally, the five-day festival is held at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès in Cannes, France. Cannes Lions has confirmed that the awarding of the Lions will take place as usual during the third week of June 2021. After the postponement of last year’s awards, the juries will be judging both years of work and awarding Lions for 2020 and 2021.

Also, learn from my mistakes and make award writing and management easier on yourself:

  • First, collaborate early: Create a shared Google Drive folder with the account teams to store campaign assets.
  • Then, host a campaign post-mortem: Immediately after a campaign wraps, interview the account team (and even the client) about the experience while it’s still fresh in their mind.
  • Make friends with the companies sponsoring awards, too: Relationship building, providing PR insights, or even just showing interest in their brand year-round will only help when it comes time to choose the winners.
  • Finally, get internal buy-in: Be transparent with your colleagues about the importance of these accomplishments. Encourage them to share wins on social and even add them to their own resumes and LinkedIn profiles for future opportunities.

What did I miss? Are there any other top agency awards that win new business, too?

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If you liked this blog post, check out:

  1. Accounts Predicted to Hire Agencies Soon
  2. Prospecting Media Agencies? Here’s What You Need to Know
  3. 6 Steps to a Standout Sales Pitch

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