Awards and Events in association withCreative Circle
Measuring Magic: Awards, Effectiveness, and the Importance of Production
Creative Production Studio
London, UK
Industry peers contemplate the connective tissue between high quality production and award-winning content

Awards season is upon us, and with it comes the corresponding discussions about who will win what and why. Although the benefits of award ceremonies are well documented -  opportunities to network, impressive work receiving recognition, industry accolades raising company profile, feedback from peers - is production given its dues? 

Ahead of Cannes Lions 2022, LBB is discussing the criteria of critical acclaim, the importance of production when it comes to delivering for UK brands, and whether winning awards and effectiveness for the brand goes hand in hand. How does quality production impact both? And what are the trends affecting the creation of content?

To get to the bottom of this multifarious subject, LBB’s April Summers spoke with creatives from production companies and agencies from around the UK; Neil Lane and Lucie Loughlin, co-founders of global adaptation and production agency, Jam; Stephen Venning, executive director at creative production company, Untold Studios; and Jamie Peate, global head of retail strategy and head of effectiveness for the UK at McCann Worldgroup. 

Unlocking Truly Effective Content 

Around this time of year ‘effectiveness’ is the word on everyone’s lips, as the entire industry prepares for the success of their creative harvest to be discussed at length, with awards criteria placed under the microscope. Industry awards ceremonies are often accused of getting it wrong, either by placing too much emphasis on the impact and not enough on the creative, or vice versa. In consideration of this, criteria for awards such as the Cannes Lions’ Creative Effectiveness category is divided into 25% idea; 25% strategy; 50% impact and results; a balanced approach to assessing the performance metrics of an advertising campaign. 

As the industry scrambles for recognition, it is worth considering the bigger question; what is the key to crafting effective content? Neil Lane and Lucie Loughlin co-own Jam, a global adaptation and content production agency based in London, and together have quantified a good approximation. “Firstly, it’s about being clear on the three fundamentals for the brand – who are we targeting? What is the positioning? What are our objectives for the campaign? We always make sure to understand these three fundamentals, whoever we partner with,” explains Lucie. “Secondly, it’s about producing content that shows courage, taking you out of your comfort zone if necessary, and reacting to current trends or cultural nuance, this is what makes content relevant. Carefully crafting the idea seamlessly across multiple integrated channels is what makes content effective.” As an indie agency, Jam stick to their guns and exercise the freedom to cherry-pick partners that accommodate this approach to crafting effective content, allowing them to plot out impactful strategies which will ensure they hit each of the aforementioned criteria in their own bespoke way.  

That begs the question, then, what do the bigger global agencies consider to be the recipe for award-winning, effective content? Do they judge the effectiveness of their content in the same way? As McCann Worldgroup's head of effectiveness for the UK, Jamie Peate is exactly the right person to lift the lid on this. “Having a clear, meaningful role and tone of voice, and understanding how to express it most effectively on a particular platform, is the key to crafting effective content; but it also helps to have the time and resources to get it right,” says Jamie. “The best way to judge effectiveness of an activity is by assessing three things: Did it set out to do the right things? Did it achieve them? Did the idea contribute to or amplify the effect? Peter Drucker said it best: ‘Efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right things.’”  

Bringing a production perspective to the table, Stephen Venning, executive director at new age creative production company Untold Studios, weighs in on the subject. “It sounds simple, but it’s about conceiving great ideas and pushing the boundaries creatively, evolving with social media and other trends. If you produce work that makes your teenage kids tell you ‘that’s sick!’, it probably means you’re on the right track,” says Stephen. “It’s not about making work that’s for awards or for your advertising buddies.”

Regardless of the angle you come at it from, extraordinary creativity is at the heart of effective work. Assigning relevant insights, an understanding of audience and business objectives to big creative ideas is the way to win over your audience, albeit colleagues, critics or consumers. “The ability to truly take the kernel of a good idea, and turn it into a distinctive one for customers, is what makes work truly effective and ultimately award-winning,” adds Lucie.  


Measuring the Impact of Quality Production

Keen to take stock of the big hitting campaigns which demonstrate how high-quality craft can elevate work to metal level, the three industry peers reflect on the correlation between winning awards and effectiveness for UK brands. “We consume ads as complete things, not as concepts, and it is all the small details which make the difference,” reveals Jamie. “You only get those details if you invest in the quality of the ‘craft’ of producing the work.” An example of this is the Burberry Festive 2021 campaign. The recipient of a string of accolades from industry awards shows including Cannes Lions, the Clios, and the British Arrows, production company Riff Raff Films proved how the effectiveness of high-quality craft can result in award-winning content. 

McCann’s work with Aldi UK on #FreeCuthbert is another example of a highly effective campaign; an elevated (and agile) production that scooped multiple gongs during awards season in 2021. “Time and effort went into crafting all of the social activity and it has delivered time and time again in the creative award shows,” Jamie recalls. As Aldi’s creative partner, McCann was praised for ingeniously transforming the beginnings of a brand crisis, into one of the supermarket’s biggest media campaigns to date. Remarking on these sorts of newsworthy, award-winning spots, Jam co-founder Lucie weighs in; “These campaigns build salience and relevance in the minds of their customers. And if they’re really effective, they build fame.” 

As a post-production focused business, Jam directs attention to the role of post-production that appears front and centre in the recent B&Q campaign from Uncommon. “The stop frame animation for B&Q by Uncommon stands a mile out in terms of quality and craft,” says Neil, “It catches your eye and draws the viewer in, which helps to convey the powerful brand message.” 

Trends Affecting Effectiveness 

In spite of their different disciplines, Jam, McCann, and Untold Studios are looking ahead to what comes after Cannes 2022. How will this year’s awards season impact the future of production and what it means to craft effective content? “We’re seeing huge trends in the creation of high-end docu branded content stories,” notes Stephen. “Aware of the times we’re living in, brands know they need to be more relevant and instep with culture and the way society is feeling as a whole. So they’re looking to create more genuine human stories, often featuring real people.”

"Our directors Pip & Lib, just created this wonderfully personal film for Nike with Emma Raducanu, about her journey. It’s the sincerity of the piece that really pulls you in. Released just before Wimbledon, the film is part of the cultural conversation surrounding one of the most talked about personalities in sport."

“We’re also seeing advertising flipped on its head; it’s arguably social first in some cases,” he continues, “Brands are looking to create quick turnaround content with shorter durations, to pull people into longer online and TV commercial content.” This is something Jam has experienced first-hand, having been tasked with the production of digital launch content for Fifa Plus earlier this year. “There is a new type of tactic for the new bite-sized content, where reinforcement of the brand in the first 3 seconds is proven to be effective,” reveals Neil. 

This first hand insight from within the industry proves there is a clear link between awards and effectiveness, despite the occasional gap between what lands with consumers and what appeals to jury judges. This week we will discover which exceptional creative projects will reign victorious at Cannes, but regardless of the winners, it seems everyone can agree on the salient criteria of unmistakably impactful work. 

Work from Jam