How to get your first IPA Effectiveness Awards entry right

Go from a rewarding to an awarding experience.

Joe Wood, Strategy Lead at Wavemaker, won an IPA Effectiveness Award on his first try. These are his tips for first-time entrants.

In 2022 I submitted a paper to the IPA Effectiveness Awards for the very first time and won a Silver for the case study on reversing the sales decline of Boursin cheese.

Learning of the result on the night of the award ceremony, surrounded by some of the team that made the work happen, was (and will remain) a career highlight for me.

Sure, it’s nice to win any award, but the IPA Effectiveness Awards are different. They contribute to a body of work that proves the serious value of communications to those outside the industry and contributes rigorous guidance on best practice to those within the industry.

Joe Wood, Strategy Lead, Wavemaker

All this is to say that if you haven’t submitted a paper before, but are thinking of doing so for next year’s 18 April deadline, I would implore you to do so.

With that in mind, I would like to share just a few reflections on writing a paper for the first time and offer some tips, so here they are…

First, get reading

If you’re writing for the first time, it’s likely you’ll never have written an award entry remotely like this one. There’s a lot to be learned from past papers: writing styles; sources referenced; the standard when it comes to burden of proof; the list could go on. There’s no one set way to write or prove success – the IPA isn’t after uniformity, especially given the ‘New Frontiers’ theme of next year’s awards – but reading will help you get a feel for how you want to tackle the task. And as a bonus, you’ll probably learn something to take back into the day job, too!

Second, get planning

The earlier, the better! Writing something that comprehensively details a campaign and satisfactorily proves its business (or social) impact is no mean feat. If your experience is anything like mine, you will have more campaign components to shine a light on and more data sources to draw from than the word count will accommodate. Remedy this by planning carefully. Try getting your narrative down to five bullet points: Situation; Challenge; Plan; Action; Result(s). This will help highlight the data you really need, along with the hero elements of your campaign. Then be strict with yourself – deviating too far from this narrative will jeopardise the clarity of your paper. Your plan will also give you something to return to when writer’s block inevitably strikes.

Third, get help

Let’s be clear, your paper will benefit from being written with a single voice. However, writing a paper is by no means a solo pursuit. You will probably need – and should invite – input from your wider team, other agencies, your client (and not just the Marketing team). This collaboration will strengthen your paper, helping provide judges with a more holistic picture of the efforts behind the results. In the case of my paper, collaboration was priceless in surfacing (and analysing) data that became crucial to proving success in the absence of full econometrics – without which the paper simply would not have stood up to scrutiny.

But the help that I suspect really pushed the paper across the line was outside help. I was fortunate enough to be able to draw from people within my agency group, who had no ties to the work, but did have experience creating great work and writing winning papers. These fresh eyes offered me dispassionate advice that sharpened my writing and shored up my evidence. Needless to say, these were busy people, but they went out of their way to make time to share their expertise and insight. (Seriously – I remember one such mentor stress-testing the paper’s narrative on Teams whilst also preparing an Easter roast dinner for their family!) If you plan better than I did, I’m sure you won’t need to repeat this scenario. But the point here is that there is a network of passionate, dedicated, knowledgeable people across our industry, who are more than happy to help others champion great work and add to a body of work that promotes the value of advertising and communications. Seek these people out. If you’re not sure who they might be, ask your leadership team, or the IPA. You won’t regret it.

Finally, get writing

Writing an IPA Effectiveness Awards Paper was a learning curve. At times it felt impossible, or pointless, or both. But was, in fact, neither. Even before the paper scored highly enough for an award, the experience was a rewarding one. It meant that I was forced to dig into literature I hadn’t read before. It meant that the team and I got to stop, and take the time to look back at a truly impactful piece of work. It meant that I got to meet and learn from some of the most talented people in the industry. So, to return to where I began, for these reasons and more, if you’re thinking about writing your first paper but remain undecided, may I implore you once again: get writing.

Register by 31 January 2024 for the opportunity to be paired with an Effectiveness Awards Mentor.


The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 01 May 2024