Awards Coordinators: The People Behind the Prizes
Winning awards means glory and fame for agencies and their staff. But the chapter that ends with on-stage handshakes and post-ceremony bubbly often begins several weeks earlier with a single individual working hard behind the scenes: the awards coordinator.
As a key part of a network’s PR efforts, in many cases the task of managing awards has become a full-time job.
Jayme Blasko, creative awards director for BBDO Worldwide, based in New York, says: “BBDO is all about The Work The Work The Work. And we know there is evidence that award-winning work is more likely to help drive our clients’ business. So participating in awards shows is very important to us.”
Her job begins with strategically identifying the shows the network wants to enter – “Based on the quality of the competition, industry trends etc.” – and and then working with chief creative officers to select the most relevant work for each competition. After that, it’s about working across the agency with appropriate creative, production and account teams to gather materials and prepare entries.
“Often this entails managing the process of case film development, category selection and individual competition deliverables.”
But it doesn’t end there. Jayme collaborates with production companies and agency partners to ensure everyone is properly represented, that the work is properly submitted and that overlaps and duplications are avoided.
“I am also the global network point of contact for all competition questions, deadline extensions, and overall coordination of entries. In this role, I work closely with our Global Creative Council to identify the best work to be submitted on a global basis that will give us our best chance at success.”
Niamh O’Connor, awards manager at BETC in Paris, says: “It’s a role that combines a lot of parts that need to be kept moving at the right times. An awards manager should know the key awards to enter, the best campaigns to send in perfect niche categories, and organize the collection of assets and the production of case studies. They also manage a yearly budget – including spending and forecasts – and handle invoices.”
Plus, she adds, an awards manager is instrumental in picking the right people for juries (a task that Jayme Blasko is involved in too). She confirms that awards take up most of her time, although she also works with the agency’s head of international PR on securing speaking opportunities and participation in conferences.
Victoria Price-Dupont, also based in Paris, has a somewhat different profile – she coordinates awards on a freelance basis for two agencies, Rosapark and Herezie. She’s also a freelance translator, and juggles the two tasks – occasionally dropping awards work when an urgent translation comes in.
“But I live in the countryside and there’s not much going on here, especially in the evenings, so I often find myself working through the night on the awards. When the agency teams arrive at work in the mornings, they regularly find their inboxes full of questions from me. But they’re used to it now.”
THE AWARDS SCRAMBLE
Perhaps not surprisingly, Victoria sees Cannes as the start of the season. “As most of the campaigns entered are new, or being entered for the first time, this is the moment when I have to get all the information together. It takes ages but once I have everything, I can use it for all the other shows in the year. When it all comes together it’s great…but the period leading up to that moment is when the pressure is really on.”
The trick is contacting the agencies in sufficient time to allow them to finalize the work and give her all the information she needs to meet awards deadlines: “Which I frequently negotiate!”
The hardest part is deciding which campaigns to enter – and into which categories – while sticking to a defined budget. “Gathering all the credits and entry texts is a lengthy process, and is very dependent on the organization and input of the agency teams. Let’s just say that with young, inexperienced creatives it can get very complicated. Making sure I have all the creative work in the exact format and size required by a given festival can also be a last-minute source of panic!”
For Niamh O’Connor, the need for case studies is the most time-consuming aspect of the role. “It’s not easy to summarize a campaign that took months to produce into a two-minute film. It’s really important to take a step back and get the tone right. Case studies should be simple, brief and entertaining: it’s hard to get the attention of juries that have to watch hundreds of cases.”
The need for case studies is one of the many ways in which the job has evolved. Victoria says: “Even poster campaigns are accompanied by a case study these days!”
Having said that, she no longer has to wrestle with slides and u-matic cassettes, as she did when she entered the industry 25 years ago. “Now I just log on to the website, fill in all the information and upload my jpegs and mp4s.”
PROFILE OF A WINNING CAMPAIGN
Meanwhile, the categories are constantly expanding, as new entrants like Data, VR, AI and Branded Content come into play. Niahm observes: “That means more prep and even more case studies!”
Jayme agrees. “When I began, there was a defined ‘award season’. Today it’s one year-long season, due to the increase in the number of competitions, categories and nature of deliverables. And with an increased number of categories within each show, the submission needs to be customized. For example, a case film created for digital may not be appropriate for PR. It needs to play to its strengths and relevancy in each category.”
Victoria notes that budgets are not quite what they used to be. “Agencies tend to enter fewer shows and attempt to precisely target the categories their campaigns have the most chance of winning in.”
Having seen many award-winning campaigns over the years, have they developed a sixth sense about the kind of work that will be a hit with juries?
Jayme suggests the question would be better put to CCOs Greg Hahn or David Lubars. But she adds: “In my opinion, work that connects, engages, offers something new or different and rewards people for their time stands a better chance for success.”
Niamh says a really successful campaign needs the full hat-trick: a clever idea, a great story, and great craft. But the idea is prime.
Victoria echoes this thought. “I obviously don’t have any creative input, but even as an outsider I can see that the only thing that really matters, when it comes down to it, is the idea. However beautifully directed a film or print campaign may be, however amusing or off the wall a digital case may be, if the idea is weak…it ain’t going to win!”
Finally, although it’s a lot of hassle, coordinating awards can be immensely satisfying. ‘I’m proud to lead the effort in getting our people and work recognised,” says Jayme.
Victoria confirms that the best part of her job is “getting that email at one in the morning, telling me my agency has won, and having the pleasure of ringing the teams to let them know”.
It’s a gift that keep on giving, too, as campaigns gain traction at multiple awards. Niamh points out: “The most satisfying thing is when a campaign that the agency really believes in starts to get recognition. Winning awards is a huge team effort.”