Colin Wilson-Brown, Effies chairman of judges and principal, The Clinic, asks aspiring winners to put themselves in a judge’s shoes to make the process less painful – and increase their chances of victory.

Put yourself in the position of a judge. They have 12 entries to read. They have been away at a conference for a week and have just come back to their judging deadline. They’re down to their last one before getting on an early flight to Melbourne to have a meeting with a supermarket to try and avoid having their product de-listed. They’re not all that happy and they’re eating that dreadful food they serve on flights before reading their final entry, when they’d rather be watching a movie. By making this experience more pleasant, you can get yourself one step closer to victory, and avoid the rubbish pile.

Don’t make the judges’ lives hard

In the words of one judge: “I’ve reached a point in my life where everything annoys me. Exactly when this happened, I don’t know. It seems to have occurred suddenly and it’s particularly evident when I’m sitting in court where I’m on the verge of becoming a judicial curmudgeon. As soon as I walk into court I’m annoyed. On mornings when I’m scheduled to hear a case, if someone greets me in the courthouse with, ‘have a good morning, your honour’, I’m inclined to reply, ‘thank you, but I have other plans’.”

Now this particular judge is from a family court in Canada so we’re not likely to have him on the Effies panel this year. But nonetheless the sentiment will ring true for our panel: they have a lot to do.

So my first tip is: don’t make it hard. Use:

Consistent terminology all the way through
Charts that are big enough to read
Campaign timing which is clear ie when you spent the money, when something happened
A few pictures to remind us of the campaign
Sometimes in entries I read sentences like, ‘everybody in Australia was talking about the campaign’ and I think, ‘where was I that day?’. Most judges are like that, so don’t assume anything.

Judges want proof

They don’t want to listen to the rhetoric that you put in there. They want to see real cause and effect: we did something – this is what happened.

They want to see how the results compared with the objectives, so don’t make that difficult either. We also want to see results that clearly match the activity. We don’t want to flick through and see that sales actually started going up before the campaign launched. And where did you get your information from in the data sources provided. Please make that clear.

When it comes to other possible factors that may have contributed to the result, these need to be either acknowledged or discounted.

And don’t rely on anecdotal evidence. Quotes, comments, likes….it’s all good supporting information but it’s not actually hard, tangible evidence.

Avoid the acronym/jargon trap

“I’m looking for a strategy to leverage our core competencies with big data across multiple synergised paradigms…or something that rhymes, either way”. Avoid this kind of stuff!

Show some humility

This was not the most brilliant campaign in 20 years. It wasn’t the biggest challenge ever. It wasn’t amazingly clever. The result wasn’t incredible. Let the judges decide!

Write a concise and compelling summary. It gives the judges an idea of what to expect. They’ll either think, ‘this sounds really interesting’, or yawn it off.

Get someone to check the argument and the data. Only 42% of people manage to get the ROI calculation right even when we’ve given it to them. And the judges do work it out, too. It’s not a great record, is it?

Show some application

Judges don’t like mathematical errors, or spelling mistakes. They don’t like bad grammar, so make an effort. You can see the people who put the hard yards in and those that didn’t.

Qualities of a high scoring entry

From 25 years of reading, scoring, judging, listening to other judges, being part of the debate – these are the things I think are important for a high scoring case.

Clear and quantified objectives
A difficult task
Insightful strategy
Clever ideas
Results that achieve objectives
Results that clearly link the campaign and the outcome
Recognition (or discounting) of other factors influencing the outcome
Anecdotal supporting evidence
Use of our definition of ROI (or explanation of why not)
Engagingly written
Final tips

Start early and get early commitment to entering the case from your client. There’s no point going to all that effort to find they aren’t going to pass it. Be sure that you have the evidence to prove the cause and effect. If you don’t have the evidence, don’t bother. Leave time for proof-reading and crafting an internal critique. Most importantly, read the winners case studies from previous years.

Good luck. I hope to see you at the final presentation collecting your award.

On time Effies entries close April 20. Visit