The Judging Panel: What We Can Learn

Dan Umney, Creative Director, The Collective by BCD M&E

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be asked to take part in helping to judge Campaign Magazine’s Experience Awards. It’s at moments like this you realise where you are in your career and where it’s taken you. Suddenly you’re sitting at a table with very experienced peers commenting (hopefully intelligently) on other people’s work and trying to decide between why one outstanding creative idea is better than another. And there is a lot of incredible talent and ideas out there. For me, this was the first time I’ve been a judge for an industry awards, and I was surprised by what a rewarding experience it was. Afterwards, I thought I’d document what I had learnt and taken away from the experience.

The best ideas always shine through

The first stage of the judging process you’re flying solo. Initially, you review all the qualified entries for each category you’ve been allocated, which was quite a daunting task. Once I’d completed an initial read through and each entry had been matched against the entry criteria, I felt it was a good idea to sleep on scoring them to see which of the ideas stuck. For me, the more memorable the idea, the more impactful and effective it must be. So those ideas that were still in my mind a few days later, for me they were the ones that were working. As it was my first-time judging, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be so off base with what I thought were the good ideas out of the pile of entries, so when the short list of nominees was released, it was gratifying to see that the majority were the same ones I had also chosen as the best of the bunch.

Lose the jargon, it's not helping anyone

What surprised me most was the jargon on some of the entries. Buzzwords and abbreviations are rife in our industry, and always have been but it doesn’t make your entry any better. In fact, the better ideas were those that let the idea do most of the talking without the need to tell me an in-person event was IRL*.

Judges are passionate and non-biased

When I sat down with my fellow judges (IRL ;-) to decide the ultimate winners, it was encouraging to see how passionate everyone around the table was about our industry and how everyone appreciated the quality of a good idea. Each judge had their favourites from the pile, but the merits of all of them were discussed fairly until a democratic consensus was reached. What was also refreshing is that many of the judges came from different industry disciplines and were able to express viewpoints from angles you wouldn’t have thought of from your own particular stance. The breadth of experience was really beneficial in this regard.

Commercial data helps prove your point

What appears to be an amazing idea on paper can sometimes appear less so when judged against the effective use of a budget. If the metrics are not there to back up the claims or show a huge spend versus a small interaction, how effective was that idea overall? 

ROI is notoriously difficult to pin down in brand experience and events, but in the current climate it is more important than ever to have some KPI’s to judge success.

Taking the original brief into account

Surprisingly, not every entry detailed the objectives of what they were briefed to do by the client in the first place. This is so important in terms of judging how effective that entry was against the original requirement and budget.

Client testimonials count

Something I soon discovered that I found very important, was a solid client testimonial. If your client isn’t able to back up claims of success it can leave doubt about the validity of the entry.

Campaign or experience?

There were a lot of good ideas submitted, but as judges we had to keep ourselves on track that these were the ‘Experience’ awards, and some entries were more campaign, PR or advertising than they were a brand experience. A good idea and effective advertising yes, something that could be felt or be immersed into (aka an experience) no.

There's always something to learn

For me, reviewing such a large array of projects and ideas was a great way to help spark other ideas and ways of looking at things in my own work. I was fortunate enough also to be a judge on one of the team awards, giving me an insight into a different team ethos and what goes on behind the scenes to foster an effective creative culture.

In summary

After a difficult few years for our industry, judging the awards has confirmed to me that brand experience is now back in business and is more energised and vital than ever before. Human connection and interaction, despite advancements in virtual, are just as important (if not more so) than they have ever been before. It’s how we use those advances in technology to enhance the human experience, rather than to replace it, that is the way forward. 

Overall, I found being a judge was a privilege and a humbling experience and I’m looking forward to the opportunity again next year!

*in real life


The latest insights on event technology from The Collective

Read the latest technology insights from The Collective by BCD M&E in their latest report.

Originally published Sep 25, 2023 7:14:00 AM
Last updated on Oct 12, 2023 10:32:37 AM

Dan Umney

Written by Dan Umney

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