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Comparing Creative Solutions in the DMA Awards Jury
London, UK
LBB’s Alex Reeves reflects on his experience judging Creative Solution in the DMA Awards 2022, the category which LBB sponsored

Last week I had quite a treat – a day spent away from my usual duties at LBB to sit in a comfortable room and discuss creative solutions with a group of well-qualified marketing and advertising people. While our own Immortal Awards proceeded with local judging sessions with editorial LBB-ers watching from the sidelines, I took part in the DMA Awards jury.

As Little Black Book was the category sponsor, I’d been invited to judge in the Creative Solution category, defined by the UK data and marketing trade body that runs the awards as the “category for creative thinking in solving a particular marketing challenge for either B2B or B2C work[…] displaying creative innovation that delivers action-orientated communications or experiences.”

Even though this is the second year I’d judged in real life at the DMA’s chosen central-London venue, being in an actual physical jury room sitting face-to-face with most of the panel around a table felt like an exciting privilege, as if we hadn’t been officially been out of lockdown for well over a year. Two of our judging colleagues joined via Zoom on the screen and we did our best to include them in discussions. I was happy to be sitting at a real table with new people though.

The category judges came from a range of professional backgrounds, which provided a diverse web of perspectives on the work we were assessing. There were creative directors (for the ‘creative’ part), strategists (helpful for the ‘solution’ part), marketers, media and CRM experts. Then me with my broad-brush perspective. After 10 years in this industry I’ve passed more than my fair share of judgement on creative campaigns, but I’ve never worked behind the scenes to actually create one.

Keeping us all on task was Robbie McCawley, director for global marketing strategy at video game giant EA – someone who’s seen a lot of examples of creative problem-solving, working on marketing for the company’s many famous titles.

Robbie walked us through the description of the category as defined by the DMA to help get us in the mindset to assess the work.

Each entry should show:
  • A strong idea that shows creative originality as well as appropriateness for the brand
  • An outline of the strategy and target audience
  • Results to reassure the judges that the work was effective

After a quiet morning of weighing up and rating the entries on our tablets, we had a hearty lunch and then cracked on with our discussion of the work that we’d put through to our longlist.

The process was a dignified format for discussion. Robbie would name a campaign and ask if one of us would like to make a case in favour of its creative solution merits. If we stepped up, we had to leave out any critical thoughts to begin with. Then the debate kicked off and we could let rip.

A lot of discussion revolved around the problem being solved by the creative approach, weighing up the starting point for the client. Nice creative ideas might be impressive, but we discussed how much more impressive (and relevant to this award category) they were if they were the right creative ideas for the particular challenges that brand faced. Some of these problems were more coherent with the brands’ existing tone and place in the world. Some were more generic, like “we’d like to sell more of our stuff so we needed a marketing campaign.” Working out the specifics of the brief became a focus.

Almost all marketing is made up of creative solutions, so the range of projects entered into our category was broad. From a single-sheet insert in a direct mail campaign to an integrated global above-the-line brand campaign for a ubiquitous household name, we had to assess he scale of the problem with the relevant solution. Thankfully a room full of people who’ve worked on an equally broad range of projects was able to sift through this complexity, but getting there was an interesting ride.

It will surprise no one that many of the campaigns keyed into social and environmental purpose. But they did so to varying degrees. Some felt intrinsic to what the brand stood for and were executed with understanding and thoughtful consideration of audiences, while others felt clumsily thrown together.

By the end of the day, our discussion and voting resulted in a shortlist of campaigns that we felt fulfilled the category’s goals. Each provoked an outpouring of admiration among our group, all for different reasons. There was one that the group didn’t have a bad word to say about. See if you can guess which.

Here are the five campaigns we put through:

Agency: M&C Saatchi
Client: NHS

Agency: Ogilvy UK
Client: Mayor of London

Agency: Ogilvy UK
Client: Unilever

The Record-Breaking Mailing
Agency: RAPP
Client: TV Licensing

Matching People with Property
Agency: Sretton&Stretton and The Kite Factory
Client: Marsh & Parsons

While a lot of my working days are spent listening to smart marketing and advertising people share insights, there’s something different about spending a day in a room with a variety of them evaluating work they’d not had a hand in themselves. As much as I enjoy judging creativity in my day job, meeting a group like this and doing it collectively feels like a robust way to decide what great creative problem solving really looks like.

I look forward to finding out what work won at the DMA Awards Night 2021 on Tuesday December 6th.

Thanks to the DMA for including me in this process.

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