The Warc Prize for Social Strategy - Entry tips

It's worth making some general points on the kind of cases that do well in strategy competitions:

  • Common elements in good strategy case studies include some form of original insight and a strategic leap that has not been made before. Often the thinking flies in the face of convention and challenges category norms. It could spring from a commercial understanding of a brand's business. It could be based on deep insight into consumers. It could start with the recognition of a new media opportunity. Or it could simply be looking at existing information in a new way.
  • Great strategy must do two further things: drive powerful marketing activity (including creative work) and deliver business objectives. Entry papers will be expected to show how the strategy was implemented and how it worked.
  • You can read more on this in a Warc Blog post on how to win a strategy award, based on a session in London.

It's also worth highlighting some specific feedback from the judges of other Warc competitions.

  • Show you understand the client's objectives. It is a common complaint in marketing competitions that entrants fail to articulate what the client wants to achieve and why. It's really important to show the context the strategy is working in (ie the client's business and its objectives), then show how the marketing objectives stem from this. Cases that have a 'strategic thrust' in response to a clear business objective tend to do well.
  • Show intent as well as outcome: make it clear that the strategy was designed to achieve the desired outcome, then delivered it.
  • Make sure the results show how the initial objectives have been achieved. Another common complaint is that papers fail to link the results at the end of the paper to the objectives at the start of it.
  • Entries that are able to move beyond intermediate measures, such as awareness, into harder business metrics, such as sales, are likely to do particularly well.
  • Try to distinguish between effectiveness and efficiency. Delivering campaigns more cheaply via digital and earned media can be impressive, but is rarely as impressive as strategies that generate incremental revenues or profits for a business.
  • Judges also look at the sustainability of the approach – did the strategy lay down a long-term platform for the brand to succeed?
  • Don't overclaim, as judges will see through it. For example, only claim to have 'started a movement' if the evidence really justifies it!
  • Remember this is a global competition with judges from different markets. Take the time to explain the nuances of your market, as many judges will not be familiar with local brands and local trends.
  • Tell a good story. Don't overwrite, avoid jargon, and try to capture the judges' imaginations from the start.
  • You can strengthen your argument by discounting other potential factors that could drive business results – for example, by showing that there were no price cuts or changes in distribution going on at the same time as the communications activity.

Finally, remember that judges will be looking for entries that are able to link social effects and business effects. Making a credible argument that links the two will be important.