Last week's announcement of the inaugural Warc Prize for Social Strategy highlighted some great examples of social media activity having tangible business effects. And the campaign that impressed our panel of judges most of all was Mariachi, by AMV BBDO for snack brand Doritos, which took the Grand Prix. (Subscribers can view all of the winning case studies here.)

But what made some of the entrants stand out from others? One of the panel of judges that decided this year's awards – Michelle Klein, a VP at Smirnoff, the Diageo-owned vodka brand – pointed to cases that told their story succinctly, made judicious use of data and proved a sustainable long-term impact on the brand being advertised. Speaking to me in New York ahead of the announcement, Klein also offered some pointed advice for next year's entrants, and discussed how she manages an "inherently social" brand.


Overall, what did you think of the entries?

The quality of entries was fantastic. The rigour that went into the analytics, laying out a really clear story, and being able to back it up with powerful results was really strong across the board. In fact, it became quite difficult amongst us judges to debate which were best, because the quality was really fantastic.

What stood out for me was when the journey was told in a very succinct way and the big headlines were delivered succinctly and impactfully. I thought the entries that were strongest had a video to support the story. These are lengthly documents for the judges to go through and so the more visual and the more succinct in terms of getting to the results helped tell the story in a much stronger way.

Did you learn anything that you might apply to your own campaigns?

What I really liked seeing was where the case study was really clearly pointing out the overall business impact. Because over the past few years you see a lot of case studies claim that social did this, that and the other and we drove x billion impressions and likes and so on. But what's great to see now is that results are far more linked to business results.

The ideas that I would steal with pride was where there was fantastic media connectivity - from traditional media to new media. For example, in a couple of the automotive cases, traditional media was used in a powerful way to drive people back to social and back out again.

Also, where there was a really powerful consumer benefit driving people to a retail environment or to a charitable donation, so that the impact could be measured in a hard way, instead of the soft [brand] measurements.

Where the business results were sustainable for time, so it wasn't just a flash in the pan, which often happens with social and digital campaigns. What we saw with these cases was sustainability across a number of quarters for the business.

Do you think we're making a credible link between social strategies and business impact?

What I found interesting here was where a brand idea, which had been in existence for a number of years, was actually demonstrated as being stronger with the next wave of creative which had social at the heart of it. So it wasn't just about business performance but it was also about the impact of equity drivers on an existing campaign idea: an idea that was made better by social activity. I thought that was outstanding to see.

Is it useful to make a distinction between ‘social strategy’ and ‘social media’?

I'd say that six years or so ago brands saw search as something that needed its own strategy, its own team that had to 'win in search' around the world. But now search is a 'hygeine' element in what we do: if we're not doing it right, then there's a problem. So what's brilliant about the moment that we're in is that clients and agencies alike are embracing this changing tide in media. It's becoming much more part of our planning process than it was even a year ago.

The work that we do at Smirnoff is inextricably rooted in social, because we're a social brand. Whatever we do in the real world, we like to replicate and add value in the digital world. Social is a really important part of our planning process now.

Do you have any advice for entries to next year’s Warc Prize for Social Strategy?

These entries take a long time to put together. And I imagine that with the data that needs to be collected and the story that needs to be written that they take a lot of effort. So my advice would be to keep it as short and succinct as possible, on the basis that your audience here is the same audience that you might be marketing the work to!

Use a big headline, really clearly tie things back to the business results, and bring it to life with a video case study - to really tell the story. When I look at the entries that ended up winning, they were probably the best-written case studies as well.

And the other point of advice would be, don't just chuck the data in for the sake of it. Use the points that really show how the business was impacted as a result of the work that you delivered as the agency.