7 steps to decide which awards to enter

7 steps to decide which awards to enter

23rd September 2015

I don’t know about you but I have lost count how many awards we have for the digital marketing industry and the number seems to be increasing each year. If you also take into account business awards, the number is pretty significant. In fact, I have started pulling together a list of all the awards (primarily UK) and just using my own resources, at the time of writing this post, I already have 67 on that list!

Now don’t get me wrong, I think awards are a great way to recognise the work an agency or brand is doing but with the sheer amount of awards available, I am struggling to keep up and it is impossible to enter them all. The awards industry is an industry in itself!

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Let’s take The Drum as an example. They definitely have the lion’s share of the awards industry with a grand total 23!! They have created an award for just about everything from The Scottish Creative Awards through to The Drum Dream Awards. They must be making a huge amount of revenue when you consider that on average it costs around £170 to enter plus an additional £245pp to attend the actual ceremony.

So what can we do to help us to understand what awards we should and shouldn’t enter? I have put together a list of seven things that I take into consideration before I even entertain submitting and entry and want to share that with you.

Ceremony Location

One of the biggest things for me is understanding where the actual award ceremony is being held. In the past, we have entered awards without considering the ceremony location and as a result, we have not been able to attend. I am not saying that awards would do this but I am sure they would prefer for winners to be there on the night so it is important that you can attend the ceremony if you do enter.

You can see the locations for all the awards on our list here.


Most of the awards seem to come with a lot of different categories. This could be because there are many different marketing campaigns using different channels so it makes sense to have a category for each or maybe the organisers make more money because you need to pay for each entry. My guess is that it would be both of these reasons. The digital marketing industry in particular is constantly evolving and we are finding new ways to market businesses online. This means that trying to fit all entries into just a small handful of categories just wouldn’t work.

Either way, as a business you should make sure you take the time to look through all the different categories and really understand what the judges will be looking for in your campaign if you do enter. If nothing really jumps out at you, then don’t enter. Wait until next year when you are confident you have a campaign that really matches the categories on offer.

Your Chances of Success

Like with the categories, you need to be confident in the campaign you are putting forward for an award. Obviously you don’t know the calibre of the other campaigns that are being entered but if you don’t have full belief in the work that has been done, I would wait until you have a campaign that you fully believe in.

On some occasions you may want to take a chance with a campaign that you think is good enough but you will have more chance of success if you strongly believe in the results generated from the work.

Previous Winners

Having a look over the previous winners from past years can be a good indication of the types of companies and brands that win. If the winners are dominated with big, well known brands and you are looking to enter a campaign for a small business you may be disappointed with the outcome. Big brands more often than not have big budgets meaning that the marketing campaigns can be a lot more creative and drive significant results.

There are a lot of awards out there that are suited to campaigns on all levels so it is wise to fish out those that match your business.

If an award is in its first year and you don’t have previous winners to go by, it could be a good to enter as you just don’t know the types of brands who will be. You may or may not win but in cases like this, you need to be in it to win it.

Entry Cost

Depending on the brand or business that you work for, cost may or may not be a stumbling point. The application costs range depending on the award itself but I would say an average cost is around the £250 mark. If you are entering more than one category or campaign, there is often a discounted rate for multiple entries but this can still add up.

It isn’t only the entry cost that you need to consider. As I mentioned at the top of this post, I would always recommend that you send someone along to the award ceremony if you do get shortlisted so you also need to look at the costs for each person to attend on the night. On average, this is around £200 per person.

When you consider both these costs (plus travel and accommodation), you can easily be spending at least £700 to enter each of them. One of the recent awards we entered cost us:

  • £195 to enter
  • £200 per person for the ticket to the ceremony
  • £40 per person for travel
  • £200 for a hotel

That’s a grand total of £835 and this doesn’t take into consideration two people out of the office for a day and a half.

Imagine the budget you would need as a business to enter all the awards on my current list of 67!!

Application Process

The entry process varies from award to award so it is important to have a look at the level of investment needed to put your application together.

Some awards will just require you to complete a short application form whilst the other more credible and well known awards will want a lot more than that. I have seen some this year that are looking for things like:

  • Application form
  • Short video showcasing your entry
  • Video about you and your company
  • Presentation to the judges in person if you get through to the next stage
  • Testimonials from other businesses you have worked with

As you can see from the above, the time it takes to enter can be significant so you need to understand this before you hand of your money to pay for the entry.

Entry Deadline

Looking at the list of awards I have created, there are certainly some months that are busier than others. The dates in my list correspond with the date of the actual ceremony so deadlines need to be worked backwards from there but typically you will find that the entry deadline is at least two months before the award night itself.

Of the 67 awards I had on my list at the time of writing this post, we can see that there are clear months that seem to be packed! For example, in October there are 15 awards and November there are 17.

Not only would it be a huge amount of work and time involved for someone entering all of those; their waistlines would have expanded with the amount of meals and their livers may not be able to cope with the alcohol consumption!!

In all seriousness, look for the awards you want to enter but I would urge you to pay attention to the deadlines when you do so unless you have a team of people who can assist with preparing the entries.

Who Sits on the Judging Panel?

Finally but still as important as all the other points I consider is the judging panel itself. Let’s say for example that you are an agency looking to get your agencies brand and the results you have delivered for your client in front of some of the leading brands. If the judging panel is packed full of high profile individuals from leading brands across the globe, this could be an ideal way to show them what you can achieve.

This is the same for brands that are looking to build awareness of their brand. Entering awards not only gets your brand in front of an audience if you get shortlisted or better still, win; but you have a panel of influential judges that will also be exposed to your product/service offering.

A Few Final Thoughts

I would love to hear which awards you have entered this year and those that you would recommend others to enter. Please drop a little comment in the section below or if you would prefer, you can tweet me on @koozai_sam.

If you have an award that you would like to add to my Awards List, please drop me a message either below or on Twitter and I will get it added.


Written By
Samantha Noble is the founder of Biddable Moments and a former editor and contributor to State of Digital.
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