Submit a Case That Won’t Put Your Judges to Sleep

When I found out I was judging the Effie Awards, I was amped. My imagination had me seated at the head of the judges’ table, listening critically as cases were presented by company leads while I sat there, dressed to the nines in an off-the-shoulder black gown, feeling—well—fabulous.

Reality quickly set in for me when I read that call time was 8:30 am in Meeting Room B at the Hyatt Hotel in Chicago. Jeans and a comfy sweater would suffice.

For those who have no clue what a day of judging the Effies is like, the authority on assessing marketing effectiveness, here is low-down.

As a judge, you spend most of the day in your own world, plugged into a laptop and headphones as time goes by in waves. You judge some cases. You break to eat. You judge some more. You break to chat. And repeat until done — or when your brain becomes mush.

After a few cases, it became very clear which would be worthy of a nomination and which wouldn’t make the cut. Below are five simple tips to reference before you submit to the Effie’s next year.

5 Tips on Submitting a Case That Won’t Put Your Judge to Sleep

  • Use a singular tone—Skip the buzzwords. Skip the insanely detailed charts. Skip repeating the answers. If you can tell a good story, you’re golden! Adding in some humor—when and where appropriate—really made cases stand out and got people talking during breaks. Get your glam squad together and nail that cohesive look.
  • Stay focused — Getting super tied up in detailed charts can get confusing when you’re not physically there to explain them.  Keeping a focused storyline and removing unnecessary stats will help your judge see the real impact you had. It’s tempting to brag with numbers at times if you have them, but more than often, extra charts and too many numbers clutter the story.
  • Proofread—Think of your submission like a resume. If a judge see’s a typo or two, you feel like the applicant didn’t take things seriously. It’s also very noticeable when multiple people wrote a submission independently and mashed them together at the end vs having one copywriter groom the whole submission.
  • Call out the factors that contributed to success—When there are obvious contributions like a gap year of promoting a product or a big social media craze, talk about it. Not mentioning it makes it sound like you’re hiding the truth from the judge. Your story might sound stronger without mentioning it, but it leaves your judge questioning the true impact.
  • Tell me why it worked — Judges either know a lot or next to nothing about your industry and what it happening. Provide us with enough context that we can be as proud of the work that you accomplished as you are. We want to be your cheerleader, you just need to help us understand why we’re rooting for you.

Like any good monologue at an award show, you have to play into your audience and get them to like you. Judges spending the whole day staring into a computer reading for hours just want you to remember that we’re humans, not case-study robots. A little lightness never hurt nobody.

For my first award show judging experience, I was left excited to bring back my learnings to work and inspired by some of the great cases I got to read and see (no joke—two made me cry and I’m not a crier). And even though I didn’t get to wear my fancy dress for the red carpet, I figure I can always save it for the Cannes Lion next year (wink, wink @isobarus).