How do you craft an award winning creative strategy?

At WARC we had the privilege of hearing directly from Dom Boyd (Group Head of Strategy, adam&eveDDB and chair of the APG Creative Strategy Awards) and Craig Mawdsley (Joint Chief Strategy Officer, AMV BBDO) who shared their valuable perspective on what makes an award winning entry.

If you would like to receive advice from no other than two of the most brilliant minds in the business, then keep on reading.

Transformational thinking

The APG Creative Strategy Awards have become a global competition for great strategic thinking which we at WARC are proud to support as partners. For the last 20 years the APG has been showcasing the very best strategic thinking out there, and the last awards in 2015 set a high standard. 

The theme for this year is 'Transformational thinking'. Brilliant thinking and ideas are coming from more diverse places than ever before. But why is this happening? 

'Brilliant thinking comes in more shapes and sizes in the sense that people's mental modus operandi has shifted beyond just brand strategy. They're tackling different kinds of problems with different kinds of thinking and coming up with different kinds of solutions.' 

It seems like creative strategy is leading beyond traditional boundaries. But is it going down well? Apparently so. Boyd states that 'clients seem to be more open to this kind of thinking than ever before'.

It's all very exciting, but where to start?

5 key values

To begin with, Boyd has 5 key themes he likes to follow. Interestingly, he isn't strict on following them all religiously, but instead suggests picking the ones that work best for each individual.

  • Being INFLUENTIAL – effect that goes beyond advertising or marketing.

    Being influential 'is not really just about positive results, but about wider proof of effect of your thinking'.
  • INSPIRING – an ability to persuade and inspire others.

    It's not just about having an inspiring and final output, it's about 'how you achieved that breakthrough through inspiring others to buy into that strategy and that set of solutions – through persuasion, collaboration and even coercion'. In Boyd's eyes, doing 'whatever it takes' is allowed.
  • INCISIVE – defining a compelling new strategic trajectory or approach.

    That could come from a change in positioning. But it could equally come from switching towards a new digitally-led content model, or designing a revolutionary brand experience, or a brilliant new target insight… 'Strategy is often about making choices, and having sacrifice, and obviously being incisive is a critical component to doing that'.
  • BRAVE - doing things differently and going outside of the comfort zone.

    'This is about doing things differently to find a fresh strategic approach, or going outside the comfort zone to push the creative output into more powerful places'.
  • ENTREPRENEURIAL – unlocking fresh brand insight and creative opportunities.

    The idea must unlock a fresh insight or approach which results in audiences being engaged or the development of new products.

But following these values isn't enough. Boyd's other valuable piece of advice? 

'Check out the winning papers, there is nothing better than dipping and checking out the best papers in action'.

Tell a good story

During the webinar, Craig Mawdsley also shared a few tips of how to write a great paper (potentially to get shortlisted) speaking from the experience of having been involved in the process of shortlisting during the last APG awards. He boiled it down to the simplest way of thinking:

5 tips to write a good paper:

  1. Tell a good story

  2. Tell a good story

  3. Tell a good story

  4. Tell a good story

  5. Tell a good story

It seems it all comes down to just that – tell a good story. Luckily Mawdsley gave us quite a few tips on how to achieve this:

  1. 'Think on just one thing – the ability to tell a good story. Now of course you need to be writing a story on a great piece of strategic thinking that's resulted in something happening in the real world'.

    His advice is 'to focus on the thing which you are proudest of.' It is important to remember that, the only thing that the judges will be allowed to judge is the story they read on the paper, which is why Mawdsley emphasizes hugely on the fact that 'you better make sure you're telling a good one'.
  1. 'The strategy is not the story. The story is not the topic, the story is what makes the topic interesting to the judges, or even just the context that the judges need to understand for the story to be good. It's an important concept to grasp'.
  1. 'Paint a picture of what the world was like before the idea existed, how the world could have looked if you hadn't done what you did'. The quality of the story, how interesting and engaging it is, is going to make the difference. It must be a piece on strategic thinking that resulted in something great happening.
  1. Simplify: when writing a paper, a good method is to try and write a short sentence that will summarize the story.
  1. Challenge: ultimately all good stories are about 'someone trying to do something to achieve something, how to overcome obstacles along the way.' If the story is about something 'going nice and easy', chances are it's not going to be that compelling. 
  1. Draft the story and share it with a friend outside the industry to see if they enjoy it. 'The best of these papers should be enjoyable to read by people from outside the industry'.
  1. Get inspiration from what has already been done. Replicating Boyd's advice, Madswley also shares the thought that reading a range of different past shortlisted papers helps with inspiration.

And after you've done all that? 'You need to find your own voice and tell your story in your own way. This is about your journey. Tell it in a way that feels authentic'.

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