ACE Awards Judge, Lauren More, answers that question and shares her insights on the qualities of a gold winning submission
Taking the leap to judging the CPRS Toronto Ace Awards was a natural next step for Lauren More, VP Communications for Ford of Canada. Her six years of judging allowed her to see some of the freshest and most creative campaigns across industries. From helping run the CPRS Toronto mentoring program to ACE Awards judging, Lauren sees volunteering as her way of supporting the communications field.
Lauren shares her insight into creating an award-winning submission with this year’s crop of ACE award applicants:
The most popular categories
While ACE award judges typically judge on a variety of different categories, there are some categories that receive far more entries and are more competitive to place.
“It’s very competitive because it’s kind of the meat and potatoes of a lot of what we do as communicators,” said Lauren. “But the other area that has certainly just expanded exponentially is the social media category.”
The social media category, in particular, has some of the most creative submissions she’s seen.
The most standout campaigns
Lauren notes that often the most memorable and effective campaigns are the ones where “maybe it’s not the sexiest product or the sexiest point of view or the sexiest issue to grab awareness for”. Yet with a creative approach, these campaigns gained a ton of media attention.
While there are some topics that are naturally going to be of more interest to the media, the campaigns she’s enjoyed over the years are the ones where the brand really has to work at it to find something that would be meaningful to their audience.
The challenges to creativity
While it’s increasingly challenging, to come up with new ideas and new approaches, Lauren concedes sometimes there are periods where budgets have been a lot tighter.
“You have to do a lot more with a lot less,” she said, “And you’re still expected to deliver the same type of results – so I think that’s really pushed the level of creativity.”
The ability to sit back
It comes to no surprise that most communicators rarely have time to slow their everyday pace. Lauren explained the ACE Awards provide that perfect evening to do just that with your team and reflect back on your best work.
“We tend to in our jobs and our field to run pretty fast and run pretty hard.” she said, “And I think it’s really worthwhile to stop and take a breath now and then. To acknowledge the work and commitment we put in.”
There are certain things that separate excellence in our field. Lauren believes it’s important as a profession to both recognize and celebrate that.
The extra “oomph”
Key to winning best in show or taking home gold in any given category, Lauren emphasizes the consistency throughout the RACE formula steps. Some of the best submissions, in her opinion took the following measures:
- The research connects well with the analysis
- The analysis connects well to the communications tactics
- A solid evaluation of the results
If you research well you understand what you’re trying to achieve with a communications program. Those winning gold and best in show have that extra dose of creativity, she said.
Lauren also notes past campaigns resonated with people – their key audience – and they told a story, a really good story and “they have that little extra oomph to them.”
Written by: Jessica Chong, Account Coordinator, High Road Communicatons
“And the 2015 Public Relations Campaign of the Year goes to Weber Shandwick and McDonald’s Canada McCafé Retail Launch.”
On May 20, 2015, the Weber Shandwick team jumped out of their seats and congratulated one another as their McDonald’s client walked on stage to accept the most prestigious ACE award of the night.
The Work Behind Winning
When asked to reflect on the agency’s big achievement and what it was like to compete in the ACE Awards, Jessica Greasley, account director from Weber Shandwick, stepped up to the opportunity.
In September 2014, Weber Shandwick devised a communications plan for McCafé’s first ever grocery launch. The essence of the communication plan focused on driving awareness of the retail launch to both consumers and the business sector.
Weber Shandwick demonstrated how the brand was innovative and appealed to a younger demographic through their campaign’s creative strategies and tactics. The global agency also took risks to try something new with Songza and the McDonald’s Canada internal team embraced this opportunity to engage their younger audience on a new digital platform. Greasley also explained how the agency’s partnership with the McDonald’s team also fueled the campaign’s success.
The ACE Awards Submission
The submission was comprehensive.
“All of the components in the submission emphasized how the campaign’s strategies tied directly back to the company’s business objectives.”
Greasley also noted the submission’s careful attention to distinguishing how their results matched their initial objectives and goals, which was instrumental to ensuring the campaign stood out. She even identified how showcasing the large scope of the campaign combined with the business and consumer phases and the planning and timing layout were key aspects of the submission.
In terms of advice to agencies developing their submission for the 2016 ACE Awards Greasley said, “Provide a good understanding of the insights that led to the approach. Having clear targets, and how you measured against it will make help the judges understand why it’s award-worthy.”
The Best In Show Presentation
With only 15 minutes to present in front of the judges, the team selected critical parts of the campaign to prove why it was deserving of the top award.
Their presentation communicated why the McCafé Retail launch should receive the prestigious award by:
- Demonstrating a strong understanding of the company’s audience and brand image
- Highlighting the agency’s thought process and initial research that was conducted to tailor the campaign’s objectives
- Showcasing innovative strategies such as the Songza partnership and proving why it was chosen to effectively reach McCafé’s younger audience
- Explaining the media relations strategy behind the campaign and timing it with International Coffee Day, which engaged consumers and garnered an overwhelming and successful amount of media coverage
The Importance of Celebrating the Public Relations and Communications Industry
After finding out the campaign surpassed Weber Shandwick’s targets (and stretch targets!) the team was confident that it was a strong contender to compete within the ACE Awards. “It was a great honour for the company and client,” said Greasly. Especially since McDonald’s has had a long standing partnership with the agency. Greasly also mentioned “it was all hands on deck”. Everyone from the agency contributed to the campaign and award.
Greasley informed me the agency is currently assembling their application for the ACE awards again this year, “As an industry, it’s definitely important to submit and recognize the great work that’s being done by communications professionals. Wishing all this year’s submissions the best of luck!”
To learn more about the campaign watch this video
Follow Weber Shandwick @WSCanada
Written by: Alessandra Manieri, Post-Graduate Student, Humber College
Friday February 26 is the deadline to submit to this year’s ACE Awards and returning judge, Lisa Covens, vice president of communications and public affairs at Leger, discussed her marking style and approach to judging this year’s campaigns.
Before stepping up as a judge, Lisa would attend the ACE Awards to support the clients who used Leger and the research they conducted for the award winning campaigns. When the opportunity came up to be one of the esteemed ACE judges, Lisa took it and started doing something she had never done before.
Lisa shared with us her strategy to marking submissions and to help prepare this year’s hopeful campaigns. Here are some highlights from her interview:
On her judging approach
“My focus will be on the RACE formula.” Research and evaluation jump at her the most.
On what makes a campaign stand out
“Today, campaigns are now so integrated – videos and visuals – which allow people to be very inclusive in their submission. Not only is the winning campaign sharp, but there’s something special about them. It is supported with research, includes creativity, success was measured and explained and overall well-executed.”
On the importance of submitting to the ACE Awards
As a returning judge for the third year in a row, Lisa listed why it is important to submit to recognitions awards such as CPRS Toronto’s ACE Awards:
- Keeps public relations professionals on top of their game throughout the year
- This isn’t done in market research so this a an opportunity worth taking advantage of
- Provides a good reflection on the campaign – when summarizing a submission it makes you think of the campaign from beginning to end
- Outline and learn from the issues encountered
- And of course, recognition is always a good thing
On one piece advice for this year’s submissions
“It’s a shame when we mark a submission and it’s so creative and clear but misses a part of the requirements. Doing that will take you out of the running for the gold.”
TIP: Ask someone, who was not part of the campaign, to review the guideline and checklist. Ensure all the components are included because anything can be overlooked and the missing section will be marked with a zero.
On what she is looking forward too
“One aspect of the ACE Awards I really enjoy is the Best In Show judging day. That day, candidates are on top on their game. You get to witness great presenters and great speakers. I take away so much and I even receive insight on how to be a better presenter. It is such an inspiring night.”
One last thing: “Keep up the great work!”
Follow Lisa Covens on Twitter: @lisacovens
Submission deadline is this Friday February 26. Submit your campaigns here.
Written by Charzie Abendanio, Humber College BPR Student and CPRS Toronto’s Student Steering Committee President
Last year, APEX Public Relations & Walmart Canada took home the ACE Award for Best Creative for the innovation and creativity behind their “Back-To-School with Walmart” campaign. We sat down with Jennifer Stein, vice president of APEX Public Relations, to look back on the award-winning campaign and the importance of celebrating success.
- What inspired you to launch Back-To-School with Walmart?
The inspiration started with the Snack Report. In our research we found out people were talking about lunch and dinner solutions, but not snack solutions. When I think about kids I think of them trading snacks on the school ground. Kids have snack envy, and that really set the tone for what we did.
- Why do you think the campaign was so successful in the end?
We really touched on a nerve on something that was applicable. We had a hypothesis, we did a survey to prove the hypothesis and the hypothesis was true.
It wasn’t just 50 per cent of moms, it was 85 per cent of moms that have this problem, and we knew we needed to provide this solution for them. We worked with a recipe developer to create fun recipes that would resonate with everyone. The content was amazing and when you have amazing content the media is more apt to pick it up.
- You have your finger on the pulse with key industry trends. How important is it to know your audience?
Not only do you need to know your target audience, you need to know what their habits are. How much time they’re spending shopping, how much time they’re spending watching TV, online and listening to the radio so that they can really be targeted, otherwise your message isn’t getting to them.
- Was an ACE Award priority during the campaign, or was it after it ended that you decided to submit?
After. Even though we knew we really blew it out of the water with media impressions, we didn’t know until a couple of months later when all the sales data came in that we helped drive sales and in-store foot traffic. It’s not until you get that insight that you know you have a winner.
- Back-To-School with Walmart was completed and your client was satisfied. Why submit to the ACE Awards?
I think it’s a nice way to congratulate the team. Awards can be tedious, but everyone squeals when you get an e-mail and it tells you you’ve won an award. It’s a feel-good ending to a campaign and something you can show the client, too, that it was an award-winning success.
- Do you think it’s important to submit to recognition awards like ACE?
Yes, often in our industry we do a campaign, we wrap and then we’re on to the next. We don’t take the time to sit back and relish how amazing the campaign was because this industry is so fast and furious. This allows us to take a step back and reflect. Not enough people do.
- Why do you think APEX won last year?
We had amazing content, content that was backed by research. And the campaign helped drive sales and at the end of the day, that’s what’s most important.
- What advice do you have for those PR campaigns being submitted this year?
If you have a sales stat, always use a sales stat to show your success. Or stakeholder analysis. The more you can dig deep into that the better your awards submission will be.
- When you found out you were competing for the highest ACE Award, how did you prepare for the Best in Show judging?
We treated it like a new business pitch to a panel of 12 people we didn’t know. We put together a presentation, we vetted it and then we rehearsed. We rehearsed three to four times as a group.
Written by Bianca Jimeno, Post-Graduate Student, Humber College