MENA Effie jury members on what they expect from a potential winner

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The MENA Effie Awards 2017 expert panel of judges has been announced. GMR speaks to jury members to find out what they expect from a potential winner

The ninth edition of the MENA Effie Awards (Effies) has announced its expert panel of judges, which includes 147 sector leaders who will be judging thousands of entries to select the most effective marketing efforts in the region. The results will be announced on November 15, 2017, at a ceremony that is expected to attract more than 2,000 attendees, including the best marketing and advertising professionals in the Middle East.

GMR spoke to a few of the judges on what’s the key to standing out at MENA Effies versus other awards, and is it difficult to remain objective when qualifying creativity? What do you think are the core criteria of a good campaign?

And here’s what they had to say:

Peter DeBenedictis, CMO, Middle East & Africa, Microsoft

For me, there needs to be the combination of a great creative concept coupled with significant commercial impact. ‘Arts for arts sake’ at the MENA Effies I do not think will cut it.

As marketers, we have to try to reach many audiences, whose point of view, perspective, what type of content they will respond to – is likely different from our own. So when looking at a creative piece of work, I would say that of course there is some personal bias that comes into play, but understanding how that campaign would appeal to the target audience they were trying to reach and then understanding the effectiveness of it, is part of the work we do as marketers every day.

Key criteria for campaigns in today’s world of Modern Marketing requires delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right audience, via the right channel, and delivering the right kind of commercial outcome both for the advertiser and the buyer.

Getting all of this right is not easy, but that is why I am looking forward to reviewing the great work at the Effies, which no doubt will have many examples of brands which were successful in creating memorable and impactful campaigns.

Nurgul Marts, Media Manager, Bulgari Middle East

The key to standing out at MENA Effies versus other awards is to make sure that the campaign is relevant for the selected market and serving company’s objective. It is not enough to achieve high reach or produce impactful campaign only – combination of all components is crucial.

As long as the objective of campaign is clear and strategy explained very well, judging should be smooth and fair. Good campaign is the effective campaign. The one that achieves set goals, be it new product awareness or gain of market share.

Wasim Basir, IMC Director, Coca-Cola

Effies reward creativity + results. For a brand that is the complete picture. Therefore, the reward is comprehensive and more satisfying. It is also a great testament that there is no result without creativity and vice versa

Any good campaign is a good solution for a problem well defined.

In my opinion it is the articulation of the problem that we must spend more time on. Judging creativity of that then becomes a very easy and objective process.

Hashem Alhashmi, Marketing Head MENA, Citibank

I love the Effies as it resonates more with clients than other awards such as Cannes and the Lions that are more focused on creativity and originality. The Effies by contrast recognizes and rewards works that have answered a business a problem.

Clearly stated objectives and metrics for the work – the whole point is to reward a work that works so to speak.

The focus should be on the data and the story that this data can tell about how the initial problem or objective was catered for. The passion that has been put into the work should show.

I think as marketing professionals we are trained to be objective as we tend to try and look at things from the view point of others.

A good campaign:

– How well it addresses the objective it set out to do.

– Staying true to the brand while achieving set objectives

– A big idea that can be expanded on and built on rather than a flash in the pan

– Also a plus if other feel good / positive sentiments are generated by the campaign

Mina Tahajody, Marketing Communications Manager, Passenger Cars, Mercedes-Benz Cars Middle East

The key to standing out at MENA Effies versus other awards is demonstrating how true insight into the target audience drove the marketing communications strategy, and achieved outstanding results.

What differentiates Effies is that the entries are evaluated against the insight, strategy and results more than the actual creative idea itself. A brand could develop a brilliant creative execution that is worthy of recognition from a creative perspective, however if it did not resonate with the target audience, or drove any true results, then there was no true effect on business results.

Yes I believe it is always a bit difficult to remain objective – especially as marketers, our ideas and our perspective are always affected by our own previous experience.

I believe that insight lies at the core of a good campaign – a true insight into the target audience, should be the foundation of a marketing communications strategy and campaign. That, together with well-executed creative, is what defines a good campaign.

Merhan El Massry, Area Director of Marketing, KSA & Bahrain, Marriott International, Middle East & Africa

MENA Effies awards is guided by international standards in the judging and award processes to ensure only the best work is recognized. So it gives it a big weight over the other awards.

It is difficult [to remain objective] sometime as you have plenty of creative campaigns that raise the bar for marketing excellence and this urge you to be so strict in your selection and choose the best of the best. The core criteria of a good campaign is creativity, clear massage, measurable results and ROI.

Aline Karam, Chief Communication Affairs Officer, Alfa Telecom, Lebanon

The key to stand out at MENA Effies is to bring the human dimension and mix it with innovation and outside the box ideas. The mainstream does not have its place on the podium. All marketers can look at the awarded campaigns as the new trend in the domain. Bottom line, MENA Effies awards are the trend setters.

Any judge can rely on a set of criteria to evaluate to the best of their capacity in an objective way the nominated campaigns. However, when we have to decide between two amazing campaigns that are equal on objective criteria, relying on our emotions and intuition becomes an important asset to break a tie in a creative domain.

We have to acknowledge that we are judging work of arts that talk to each person differently. In this case, objectivity is important but we need to leave a part to our emotional side to reveal itself. As for the criteria of a good campaign:

– To address its main target in an impactful way through an appropriate choice of communication channels

– To engage the intended target and leave a lasting impression

– To achieve results by reaching its intended goals and inject more trust in the brand

– And ultimately as a cherry on top, to set new trends in the field and change human behaviors to the best

Jihad Al Houwayek, Head of marketing, damas, UAE

The Effies stand out versus other awards with the weight and emphasis they put on results. Any communication despite how creative or beautiful it can be, will be useless for brands and marketers if they are not effective and don’t drive results and meet the set objectives.

Besides, it is also the objectivity in submitting the effectiveness of a specific campaign and the audited results that make the Effies so credible and trustworthy.

I wouldn’t call it difficult, it’s rather challenging. Yet from my previous experiences with the Effies, the jury is formed from a group of highly experienced professionals who can take a distance to objectively judge an entry.

On the other side, the jury are also humans and consumers and if they are moved by a certain campaign, it means that the work is engaging and that’s absolutely fine, that’s the objective after all from creating the work. The core criteria is how much engaging the work was versus the target audience.

How did it influence their behavior, their feelings and how did it impact their decisions. The level of engagement drives the results and results are proof of effectiveness which is not always only related to financial gains, it is evaluated separately for each category and most importantly versus the initial set objective and the nature of the challenge faced.

Basel Anabtawi, Digital Manager MEA, Red Bull

I find many award shows to be self-congratulatory in many ways, however, the Effies stands out for its focus on the effectiveness of creative campaigns and the results they drives. It’s very important in today’s marketing climate to give an importance to real work, rather than award-only submissions.

Not only does this showcase the true nature of the work that we’re capable of as an industry, but also raises the morale of marketers and creative professionals as a whole.

There will always be unconscious biases when it comes to determining good work – it involves your affinity for a brand and what that brand represents. However we can become much more objective when we understand which audiences the brand in question is trying to reach.

If the audience is well defined, then objectivity becomes an easier area to settle in. I think it’s very important to determine 3 things prior to embarking on any campaign: 1) Define who your audience is 2) Define the ‘behavioral insights’ and ‘topics of interest’ for your audience 3) Where does your audience consume these topics of interest? (define the platforms). If we have these three pillars to guide us throughout our planning process, then more often than not we will be onto something great.

Ann-Camilla Kjaempe, Regional Marketing Director, Arla Foods

What I like about the MENA Effies, is that it is all about the effectiveness of campaigns and initiatives. There are many awards celebrating creativity, but you can be very creative without means to an end.

At the end of the day, it is all about driving business growth, by doing good, consumer relevant and behaviour changing initiatives in a creative way.

It can be difficult to be objective when judging creativity, and that is why focusing on the objectives, goals and effectiveness makes a lot of sense.

I believe that the core criteria of a good campaign is its ability to change consumer behaviour and its business effectiveness.

Nayla Mouawad Group Marketing & Communications Manager Boecker International

A big idea that shows concrete measurable results. MENA Effie stands for effectiveness that stems specifically from result oriented campaigns relying on measurable data and experts’ validation. In many other award shows, less keen on data accuracy, it is easier to manipulate or package results. This is not the case at MENA Effies.

Yes, I do believe that creativity strikes different chords in different people, although there are key humanitarian / CSR topics that appeal to many of us. I do believe that judging creativity cannot dissociate itself from a degree of bias as it does speak to our emotions.

However, real, compelling and striking creativity will stand out from the clutter and leave its mark. Today, most Big Ideas are inspired by either technology or human insights and the magic lies within the materialization / packaging of these idea.

Julian Redman, Head of Digital, Aldar Properties

The key is performance. A good campaign is there to increase awareness, create interest and build desire for the product but ultimately the Effie Jury is looking for Action! How does the campaign perform against a clear, defined, set of KPI’s.

Creativity will certainly help, but the nominations have to ensure that a return of marketing investment is recorded and achieved, for it is these that truly stand out as award winning campaigns.

For me, creativity is originality combined with clear communication to the correct target audience. For the Effie’s the barometer for a good campaign is one that has “worked” – a campaign which has set out a clear set of SMART objectives where the results are measured and the KPI’s have been met or exceeded.

The winners from 2016, where I was a Judge for the first time, demonstrated not only a good set of results against KPI’s, but showed qualities of tackling a specific need in an imaginative way; for me The Good Note was a great example of understanding a need and finding a solution to it which engaged the target audience and created additional PR due to its human touch.

Ahmed A. Alsahhaf, GM, Marketing Communication, STC

It can be different every year, as the themes or trends that appear in the work can often determine what you need to stand out- however, the nature of the MENA Effie awards is different from other award shows.

While some awards focus only on one component of a great campaign, such as the strength of the creative idea or the media approach, the scope of the Effie Awards is more comprehensive, so the work needs to go beyond just a great idea, but also demonstrate that the campaign is one built around a detailed understanding of the problem to be solved and objectives to be met.

Work that has impact beyond its initial objectives or that creates a category shift, is what really stands out.

It’s important to take the time to really understand the objective, the context and the impact of the campaign to be able to judge it on its own merits. A good campaign will have an idea large enough to be able to travel broadly yet still touch consumers by building off real consumer insights and ultimately solving a problem.

However, great campaigns are also about breaking new ground and doing something no one has done before, changing behavior or even creating a shift. When a creative first is combined with big results then that is the ideal win.

Nadine Touma Gammage, Consultant

To the risk of sounding lame, Effie stands for … 1) effectiveness… 2) efficiency… 3) efficacy…Three notions that are similar, share the same root and yet represent different aspect of performance.

1- Do the right things

2- Do these things well

3- So that they ‘work out’ for you, eg achieve the objective you have established for yourself

For sure… Creativity is all but objective. It talks to the right side of our brain, a side that is usually very under developed. Our education teaches us to use the left side of our brain mainly: rationality, logic, measurement, weighing, counting. It is all about order. And order can be quantified: better, worse, good bad, first, last.

Creativity is all about disorder, ie disrupting the established order through inspiration, creation, imagination. In that world there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ it is all a matter of perspective.

Emre Karaer, General Manager – Volvo Car MENA & CIS

Effies are now spread to several markets; MENA being one of them, and it sure is raising the bar for creativity and expectations from marketeers in the region.

Effies and jury members are objectively evaluating the creativity, however the main credit is for the Regional relevance and of course effectiveness.

Creativity is objective in its essence as our taste and perceptions are often the base of judgement. However, setting some criteria can help gain common ground for subjectivity. A good campaign should be founded on a deep physiological insight and stand for values that are above and beyond the brand itself. It should resonate with the public using a meaningful and memorable message while enhancing their lives and adding value to them.

A very dynamic region, MENA houses a wide variety of backgrounds, which can render campaign targeting complicated. However, insight creation, targeting and reaching consumers at the right moment and channel with a strong multi-platform strategy will ensure all different consumers get the full story.