The WARC Awards are now open for entries. Here John Bizzell, WARC's Awards Lead, finds out what the three North American jury chairs will be looking for in the 2024 winners. Meet NBCUniversal’s Yusuf Chuku, Kruger Products’ Susan Irving and Autodesk’s Dara Treseder.

Yusuf Chuku

Yusuf Chuku Ieads a team of researchers, data strategists and analysts who focus on insights-driven storytelling to reach audiences and drive business results for marketers in every category. With over 25 years in the business, both in London and New York, Yusuf has also led strategy at VMLY&R and McCann New York. He has had stints at DDB London, JWT New York and Naked Communications and his work has been recognised by the IPA Awards, the Jay Chiat Awards and Cannes Lions.

Yusuf on…

Driving Cultural Impact

“For a long time, marketers thought that brands live in a vacuum with their messages travelling straight to the consumer. To the brands, everything else was simply background noise. However, it is not possible for any brand to shout above the noise. And by noise, I mean everything from politics and religion to Real Housewives and pop culture – because noise or culture is what the consumer cares about. Brands need to understand their place within culture and how to successfully harness it to their advantage. To ignore it would be akin to exercising cultural blindness – a guaranteed brand value destroyer.”

Leaning into purpose

“Today, brands find themselves in a place where the expectations consumers have of them are extremely high as trust in major institutions continues to deteriorate. Brands have an opportunity – and sometimes even an obligation – to lean into purpose, but it’s crucial that marketers lean into what is authentic for their brand. The real work is understanding when is the moment for your brand to speak out and when it just needs to be quiet.”

The balance of brand versus performance

“We often talk about brand building versus short-term activation, when we should refer to it as the sales continuum: there are short-term sales and long-term sales. What we have to guard against is overcompensating. When the economy gets hard, it’s tempting for brands to over-emphasise short-term sales. It’s vital to understand how the two can be balanced through strategically coordinating messaging and media: content and context working in harmony. 

Even in the last few years, tech and data has revolutionised what’s possible with what we used to call traditional media. This is not your grandfather’s media landscape. I’m looking for entries that demonstrate a contemporary understanding of advertising and advertising channels.”

Susan Irving

Susan Irving is an award-winning senior executive with over two decades of experience leading brands at Kruger Products, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola. Recognised as an industry expert, she’s built strong brands through her creative and insightful approach. Prior to Kruger Products, Susan was the global senior director of marketing for the Doritos, Cheetos and Sunbites portfolios. Her work and leadership have garnered awards such as Cassies, Cannes Lions and Effies in addition to various accolades including Canadian Marketer of the Year, Strategy Marketer of the Year and Star Women of Grocery.

Susan on…

Cultural Impact

“To have a positive impact on people’s lives is one of the most important functions of marketing and communications. Cultural impact can mean many different things, including tangible contributions to the culture such as those produced through sustainability efforts, or simply having emotional resonance in consumers’ cultural or everyday human experience. There is a lot of great work being done across the region in this regard, but I’m particularly proud of the cultural impact of Kruger Products brands.”

Brand Purpose

“Purpose has been a buzzword for so long that it may have lost its meaning for some individuals. But our inclination to use the word ‘purpose’ speaks to the desire for our work to be grounded in something greater than the products and brands themselves. In that way, purpose can ground our marketing work in the human experience and guide us down interesting paths. As a jury chair, I hope to see brands that understand how to make their unique purpose the focus while still demonstrating the brand’s value. At Kruger Products, our ‘Unapologetically Human’ campaign was both a powerful message and a transformative moment for our brand. The purpose – to reflect the messiness of the human experience so that we can feel united during challenging times – demonstrated the importance of moving beyond the functional attributes of a product and delving into the ‘emotional’ aspect of connecting with consumers.”

The Creative Effectiveness Ladder 

“Brands don’t become ‘enduring icons’ overnight. To climb the Creative Effectiveness Ladder, brands enter a years-long process involving strategy and investments that build toward that end goal. Short-term activations are an important part of that process; short bursts of instant impact build on each other to foster a more sustained kind of brand recognition and power. These are moments that keep the brand in the public’s mind throughout the year, while we continue with the deeper, long-term growth strategies. Long-term brand building forms the foundation of any effective marketing strategy and takes months of planning and ideation before execution.”

Dara Treseder

Dara Treseder sets the strategy and goals to build the Autodesk brand and market the product portfolio. She oversees the worldwide marketing, brand, communications, demand generation, and education business teams. A veteran Chief Marketing Officer, Dara was previously the Global Head of Marketing, Communications & Membership at Peloton, CMO of Carbon and the CMO of GE Business Innovations & GE Ventures. She is also a champion of public health, women’s issues and diversity initiatives, 

Dara on…

Driving cultural impact

“Driving cultural impact means leveraging moments to start important conversations – where it makes sense for your business. A brand can successfully drive cultural impact when it knows clearly where it has earned a spot at the table (as opposed to inserting itself into a conversation for visibility). When a brand gets this right, they demonstrate key thought leadership on issues that are important to their customers, influence their customers’ behaviour and help drive demand for their business. For example, I admired Apple’s unexpected and creative approach to sustainability reporting with its 2030 Status video last year, featuring Mother Nature. By attracting record numbers of viewers and focusing on issues important to consumers, it responded courageously to critiques about Apple’s business and made the corporate ERG report culturally relevant like never before.”

The balance of brand versus performance

“Marketing leaders must bring a balanced approach to supporting both short-term activations and long-term brand building. It’s critical to ensure the ongoing health of the business while positioning the company for future growth. An audience-centric approach to short-term activations will allow you to have more relevant content that is in the right place at the right time for both customers and prospects. These relationships and the business that comes from them are foundational for a marketer. However long-term brand building is important because a strong brand increases market share, drives brand loyalty and preference as well as helps attract top talent. It is a balancing act and those bets do matter when you’re trying to grow a business. Much of the impact marketing makes is measured in lagging indicators – building the brand with a consistent cadence of creativity over time will make the difference.” 

Strategic Thinking in a cost-of-living crisis

“Consistently delivering value through personalised consumer experiences is always a best practice and creates a foundation of trust that can help a company insulate their business in challenging times. As marketers, we need to understand our audiences, their challenges, and their goals, and demonstrate how we can help them achieve their desired outcomes. This builds customer loyalty and increases lifetime value. Empathy becomes even more important in troubled times. To support our customers and their affected workforce during the pandemic, Autodesk offered furloughed and laid-off individuals software training to help keep their skills sharp or develop new ones. While inflation in the US resulted in many companies raising their prices over the last year, Mint Mobile announced they are not increasing prices while maintaining value because ‘people are feeling it everywhere, and we want to help.’”  

The WARC Awards 2024 are open for entries now. Final deadline: 6 February. Download your entry pack here