Six steps to the Effectiveness Awards entry finish line

The 20th April entry deadline for the IPA Effectiveness Awards is in sight. Even if you are behind schedule, there is still time to get your entry in front of the Effectiveness judges in its best possible shape.

To help you achieve that, below we summarise how to avoid the most common pitfalls that keep entrants off the Awards shortlist or prevent them from submitting altogether. It will be important to set and stick to clear objectives, communicate persuasively, and prioritise resources. In other words, be as effective in delivering your paper as you were in the work described in the entry itself.

  1. Clear diaries and consent

One of the most frequently cited reasons why Effectiveness entries fall at this late stage is that a client was not able, willing or sufficiently senior to sign off an entry.

Make sure anyone who needs to sign off your paper knows it is coming and ensure they will be available in the days before the 20th to give their final approval. This includes bosses, clients and partners.

If you need ways to allay concerns such as about theoretical breaches of commercial confidentiality, use these arguments.

  1. Polish your winning charts

You can’t build a case without data, but you can ruin one by choosing the wrong statistics or presenting them poorly. Prioritise, therefore, the quality of your key stats and charts.

Make sure charts show clearly the link between the period and scope of the brand’s activities and the commercial uplift it generated (see great examples below).


Source: Coors, 2016 Effectiveness Award Bronze


Source: Art Fund, 2012 Effectiveness Award Silver

Where publication of actual numbers is sensitive, you can use indexing or put them in an appendix not for publication.

  1. Keep logic watertight

An Effectiveness Awards entry is ultimately judged on how well it spells out the chain of logic between the challenge for the brand, the communications solution, and the proof of effectiveness of the activity in question. Emphasising new learnings from a case is valuable but can’t make up for gaps in this chain of logic.

Consider bringing in fresh readers to ensure that the clarity of your logic has not been diluted as the case has gone through serial drafts or when interesting, but secondary, new material was added.

The Effectiveness Judges will be reading your entry for the first time: make your argument unmissable and unassailable.

  1. Call in friends and favours

As the preceding points suggest, this might be the time to request reinforcements.

Ask colleagues to pledge their time to read final drafts, particularly looking at the quality and labelling of charts, the robustness of the argument, clarity of the introduction and searching for typos anywhere (including in headings and appendices).

It is depressing to think of those authors who put so much work into an entry, and then allowed it to go before the judges with an illegible chart axis. Don’t be one of them.

And if you want to gain extra brownie points, you will also ensure that all the pages of your entry document are numbered.

  1. Make use of past winners

Whether your entry-writing is stalled or you are ready to press “submit” on a completely finished paper, your chances of success will likely increase if you have made good use of past Effectiveness Award-winning cases available via the IPA or Warc.

This can involve as little as making minor references to differentiate your solution or favourably compare the return it generates to those of previous winners or drawing on past papers to shape the overall presentation of your argument and evidence.

And familiarity with the archive means authors are less likely to fall for any myths about having to rely on ROI or econometrics to win an IPA Award.

  1. Finish at the beginning

As advised by effectiveness guru, Les Binet, write (or rewrite) the first section of your case last. Treat it like an ad for what will follow: it should be concise, clear, and consistent with the evidence in the rest of the case.

Never forget that the primary audience for your work is an Effectiveness Judge working through a pile of potential contenders.

This is your first opportunity to stand out from the competition. Make it count like it was your last.

View more information on the IPA Effectiveness Awards.

Last updated 01 May 2024