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10 rules for winning at the Effies

Effie MENA bootcamp 2018

Events & Awards

10 rules for winning at the Effies

The Effie Awards are well known for celebrating marketing effectiveness. Launched in New York in 1968, the awards program symbolizes great ideas that achieve real results and ideas that work.

In order for these ideas to win an Effie – especially a Gold or Grand Prix – it often comes down to how well the message is conveyed through the case study presented in the entry.

And so, to help regional agencies better understand the nuances of a well-crafted case study entry, Mediaquest – the regional organizers of the awards – held a half-day Effie Bootcamp. The event presented a holistic perspective by bringing in previous jury chair, Alex Malouf, corporate communications manager, Arabian Peninsula, Procter & Gamble (P&G), who delivered the first talk.

This was followed by a talk and workshop from the man who has won over a 100 Effies throughout his career: Tahaab Rais, regional head of strategy and Truth Central at FP7/McCann Worldgroup MENA.

Here’s a recap:

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And because everyone loves listicles, here are Rais’ 10 rules: 

  1. A great case study starts with the brief.

 There’s no case study time. The process of developing a great case study starts when you’re thinking of the brief.

There is a question that I get asked all the time. “How do you write such good case studies?” But, this question is sort of misleading.

Because great case studies aren’t “written”. Not at first. The writing comes later.

We have to envision a great case study before we can write a great case study. And that’s what I actually enjoy doing.

[Tweet ““Great case studies aren’t “written”. Not at first.” – @Tahaab Rais on winning an Effie.”]

There is a very natural tendency to think of cases as something we do after we are done. But we will write better cases eventually if we think of our case from the very start. Starting with the desired ending is the best way to ensure we get to where we want to go, right? And it helps with managing the multiple deliverables we all have on our plates every single day. And of course, managing the stress that comes with the Effies season. Although if we did follow this to T, there wouldn’t be an ‘Effies season’.

  1. A case study video is not the deciding factor.

While videos help – more so with a shortlist or Bronze – it does not really win an Effie. The case study document does. It’s what judges vet when deciding between a Silver and a Gold. And it needs love and rigor.

  1. A truly effective case study is rarely a solo effort.

Amidst the madness of day-to-day, we have a tendency to work in silos. The only way to do a truly good case study is to understand it as a cohesive whole.

Doing a good case study isn’t about filling out boxes or paragraphs with great language. Not at first.

It isn’t even about finding great results. Not alone.

Doing a really good case study is about telling the story of how all the pieces of what we do fit together, and this includes our media and PR partners who worked on the campaign.

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  1. Tell your story to someone who isn’t in advertising.

Put away all pencils, pens and laptops. Spend some serious time figuring out what story we reallllllyyyyyy want to tell. If it can’t be articulated in a tweet or an IMDB summary, we don’t have it yet.
Next, think about:
WHAT’S THE STORY? Rags to riches? David vs. Goliath?
WHAT’S THE ROLE OF THE BRAND? Innovator? Underdog? Street fighter? Shape shifter? Chess master?
WHO OR WHAT IS THE TRUE ENEMY? Complacency? Old habits? Fear of change? Culture? Competition?

[Tweet “Want to win an Effie? Try summarizing your case study in a tweet or IMDB summary. – @Tahaab”]

The Effie scoring system is a good structure for crafting a story with a 30% weight on results and 23.3% on each of the following: challenge and objectives, insight and idea, execution.

  1. Spend time on the real problem and give objectives a historical, competitive or financial context.

Most judges find all gamified objectives the easiest to pick apart. So, it’s important to find hidden and specific problems and give the objectives more context than just percentages.

  1. Make insights actually insightful.

Have a rug-pull that surprises and craft insights with data that balances the magic with the logic. There’s always a business problem. But, what’s that hidden problem? There’s always an insight. But, what’s that untapped insight?

  1. Show the scale.

Talk about the connections strategy. Then, show how it was brought to life through a data-driven consumer journey. Talk about partnerships and synergies. Talk about PR and scalability. Talk about the complexity and the collaboration. Talk about failures and/or learnings. Talk about how it was all measured.

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  1. Respect the judges’ time.

Say only what needs to be said… Good writing isn’t just about what to include. Very often, it’s also about what not to include.

  1. Respect judges’ humanity and creativity.

The advertising industry today faces a big hairy question: What is the meaningful and transformational role for creativity in today’s world? ‘Meaning’ endears the case to judges as it shows a valuable new role for our industry.

  1. Sometimes we’re too close to our case study.

Make ‘Case Study Buddies’ and trade cases and video scripts – a fresh eye to the development of our story. It helps gain references of their own or of other cases, and tweaking or rewriting the case or the video scripts.



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