Lately, I've been asked to judge quite a few marketing awards competitions. Mostly digital awards, but some traditional/offline categories, too. The specific awards and contests don't matter, because the affliction I see is universal. It is that most marketing awards entry write-ups are absolutely terrible.
Look, I get it. Convince & Convert is the fifth marketing services firm I've owned or managed. I understand that the pace of the game can breed the "oh crap, those award entries are due Friday" realization. But even if your company is pressed for time, that's not a sufficient reason to put the task of describing the program and its merits into the hands of the most junior of staff members.
I have seen some god-awful entries. Rampant misspellings. Grammar that would make a Jersey Shore cast member ruefully shake their head. Most common (and egregious) of all is an utter lack of detail about what the campaign in question actually DID and why.
You Are the Solo Storyteller
Awards judges only have at their disposal what YOU supply them. They don't have the backstory, or the history or any experience with the client or agency whatsoever. What's written down on the entry sheet, and the visuals and URLs supplied alongside are your persuasive ammunition, period. And that ammunition is more often a spit wad than a tracer bullet.
Typically, the "best" component of these entries is the factual, tactical stuff because that is the easiest for the President, VP, Director or Account Manager to dictate or jot down in a quick email to the poor Coordinator who ended up with the entry drafting task. The component that is usually lacking is what can't be as easily summarized in a bullet point: the strategic thinking. Why was this approach selected and how does it fit big picture business objectives? That's what I want to see as a judge.
But Did it Work?
Of course, the other part of marketing awards entries that is as rare as Kobe Bryant wearing a Dwight Howard jersey is a coherent explanation of the results. If you want to know within one paragraph how business-savvy and competent an agency is, just read the "results" section of one of their awards entries.
This summer, I've read page after page after page of rosy - yet poorly phrased - prose about the triumph of Facebook like acquisition, blog comment increases and number of Twitter impressions. Just stop it. I would rather see an honest answer of "you know what, we weren't able to track sound business metrics for these reasons" than one more incidence of mathematical gerrymandering.
Most of the time, awards seekers lose the trophy before the entry leaves the office, when they delegate the assignment to the least experienced person on the team. And if they manage to get that part right, they ruin their chances when they don't take the time to figure out the key metrics and measurement narrative before the campaign commences.
Agencies (and companies) remember this: you are usually PAYING MONEY to enter these marketing awards competitions. And it's not money well spent.