Jessica Best

Awards Driven By Results: What Makes a Winning AMBITS Entry?


Big thanks to Clifton Alexander, from REACTOR Design Studio, and Susan Reiter of The frank Agency for sharing their insight into what’s won them armfuls of awards over the years!

As we approach awards season, the KCDMA board often is asked “What makes a winning AMBIT campaign? What type of entries go all the way?”

We thought it might help to see into the brains of some of the top winners from past years, not only on how they write a compile campaign, but also… how they choose what to enter.

Part I: Choosing the Best Work for a Data-Driven Awards Show

I asked Clifton Alexander from REACTOR Design Studio (who has more than one Best of Show trophy on his shelf), What types of campaigns have usually taken Best of Show for you? 

“It’s really all over the board here on the campaigns,” Clifton says. “We’ve had everything from event invites to highly targeted retention campaigns.  We’ve won for the sort of traditional clients like a bank, but have also taken Best of Show with great campaigns from larger non-profit clients.”

What’s a stand-out campaign that you’ve won an AMBIT for?

“We created a campaign for Commerce Bank that was coffee-themed where we used coffee-scented ink and a custom printed coffee cup sleeve,” he remembers fondly. “That one was fun. And we had great retention and re-adoption rates to pair with an out-of-the-box idea.”

He’s quick to caveat “It doesn’t have to be crazy investment though: The nonprofit event invitations we do always push the boundaries of design and print processes, but still fit within the budget for the year. It’s about striking the right balance if incredible technique and not breaking the bank.

I also asked Susan Reiter, COO at The frank Agency, and frequent winner across all categories, including the Best-Ofs. She says her entries are about another kind of balance, too. “Although AMBITS is, of course, all about results – and that’s what sets it apart from other award shows – in our personal experience, the types of campaigns that have usually taken Golds or Best of Show have been the ones that show outstanding creative combined with outstanding results.”

“Especially when it comes to Best of Show,” she points out, “it’s not always the case, but often these winners are large, multi-channel campaigns that encompass many legs across both traditional and digital/social channels rather than single channel campaign entries.”

And while your chances of winning improve by entering a broad range of campaigns across categories, don’t submit everything. Be selective! Susan says they spread their entries across categories, searching for the best examples in their portfolio for the year. “We’ve had particular success with entries that bring in new, unexpected channels or using a channel in a different way that delivers strong results against the client’s goals and KPIs,” she says.

Once you have your campaigns and categories chosen, it’s time to write the entry.

Part II: Telling an Award-winning Story

“Judges have to read quite a few entries,” Susan points out, “so we try to streamline for them by ensuring that our writing is clear, concise and compelling – with the most important points bulleted. Additionally, we keep in mind that the judges will be from a variety of marketing disciplines, and thus we make certain our writing will be relevant and accessible to a diverse audience.”

Clifton knows the judges have a tough job sifting through entries, too. “Get to the point. Don’t include a bunch of fluff,” he says. Make it as easy as possible for the judges to understand the project and its impact quickly – they’ll thank you for not rambling!

Tips for creating a stand-out AMBIT Awards entry:

  • Only use your BEST images and examples of your campaign. Fewer images that are higher quality are better than including lots of images where some are lower quality.
  • Create a landing page where you can show all your work on a single page (especially for an integrated campaign). Hint: You don’t have to design every single page – use a template you can reuse across categories!
  • Create a case study video that brings to life your story and shows the piece, the audience, and then impact. Plus, you can use it again for new business and/or other awards! A large majority of the ECHO awards in 2017 submitted a video about their campaign.
  • Warning: If you choose to add your branding to this, judges can no longer be 100% objective/unbiased when judging your awards.

Part III: Start Collecting Early and Don’t Miss the Submission Deadline

You can’t win if you don’t enter or if you enter too late! And you might be surprised how many KCDMA’rs would love to have submitted just one more campaign… if they could have gotten it pulled together in time.

“Finding the data is sometimes the hardest part, because it’s may not be available, or the client may not want to divulge all of it,” Clifton says. “We start collecting data and talking to our clients early to ensure we have what we need by the time we’re writing our entries.”

Suggested Timeline for Rounding Up Your Entries:

  • November – Start early gathering data/results for your case study/entry, plus start asking for approval to tell the story, plus quotes or testimonials.
  • December – Gather visuals and samples. (Dec 1, 2017 is the latest a campaign can run and be eligible for the 2018 AMBITS, so December is perfect for rounding up your creative.)
  • January – Compose your entries, telling the best story with the data and creative you have.
  • February 1, 2018 – Submit your entries by the submission deadline to be considered!

Ultimately, Clifton says, just like any marketing, submitting awards is all about telling the story. 

“We have to be very diligent in how we submit,” he says. “We want to promote our pieces in an accurate way, with the data we have available. It’s a balance not to dip into hyperbole, but also to tell a great story about a campaign that was inventive and effective.”

Start thinking about your entries now – submissions open November 1, 2017 for the 2018 AMBIT Awards! This year, we have a new improved entry platform, thanks to our pals on the DMA ECHOs committee! Learn more about the new platform here and check it out here 


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