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How to Win an APG Award

2017. The evening of the APG Awards. The stunning St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. I arrive (by Uber Exec, obvs) in a not-very-subtle gold gown that makes me look like a Regency curtain. Never Knowingly Underdressed. Despite the luminous presumptuousness of my attire, I didn’t win Gold. In fact, my name was the first to be called. Awkward stumble up to the stage. Bronze. And then Silver, later, suitably sloshed (I had two papers shortlisted, for Dove and Babylon). But this is not about me.

As I am eminently unqualified to advise you how to win Gold, I will instead recount the advice from this week’s ‘How To Win 2’ event featuring a panel of 2017 judges: the quiet and reserved Kevin Chesters, the brilliant Bogdana Butnar and the jargon-hating John Harrison, moderated by APG Chair Matt Tanter.

Bogdana kicked off with the importance of storytelling. No, this does not mean starting your paper with ‘This is a story about…’ (please don’t do that). Framing your tale with an established narrative structure (hero faces impossible challenge, somehow extricates self from challenge - preferably with some unexpected twists and turns along the way) plays to judges’ (some of whom are actually human) inherent psychological bias. Apparently we are 20 times more likely to remember something when it is told to us as a story, rather than as a fact.

John then launched into an appeal to give judges the feels, quoting Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” The papers that stood out for John were those that opened strong (like the arresting first line of the Maltesers paper: ‘A disabled woman mimics a sex act with a packet of Maltesers’) - and those that left a lasting emotional impact. John was adamant (enthusiastically drawing a Venn diagram in the sky) that creative and strategy do not exist in isolation. The brutal truth is: if the work sucks, you probably won’t win. Oh, and don’t use ‘marketing speak’. It will irritate the judges. No one wants that.

Kevin spoke about the Von Restorff Effect (when multiple similar stimuli are presented, we notice the one that differs from the rest). This is particularly important when judges have 40 papers to read on the red-eye to Vancouver. So ‘think different’. But not just for the sake of it. Write well - put everything you have into crafting each and every one of those 2000-or-preferably-fewer words. And think beyond advertising, too. Forget YouTube views - consider what impact your strategy has made on on the real world. Make the industry feel proud. Kevin then started talking about brothels and pianos and nightclubs in the 1990s and Matt deftly changed the subject.

They said other things, too. But I can’t be expected to remember everything.

Papers that stood out for this panel included John Lewis, Change4Life, Change Please, Maltesers and Tate Britain. So go on, have a read.

And if you may permit me some small advice of my own: if you are lucky enough to be shortlisted, unless you have bribed Matt Tanter handsomely and are guaranteed Gold: wear neutral colours to the awards do.

Good luck!

Marie Maurer - freelance strategy director

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