Mumbrella Asia Awards jury chair Nicole McMillan: What I want to see from the entries

With the annual Mumbrella Asia Awards now open for entry until August 17, the Mars vice-president of marketing for Asia, the Middle East and Africa – and awards jury chair – Nicole McMillan maps out the approach needed from those entering

Is it just me or are these industry award events becoming a little convoluted? As the marketing and communications industry continues to fragment across different approaches and platforms too, it follows that the list of industry awards categories reflects this. And so there is often a fast-growing jungle of specialist areas up for recognition.  

I must admit, on first sight of the list of categories for this years Mumbrella Asia Awards (see below), I was a little taken aback at the number and breadth of categories up for recognition. And I am this year’s jury chair.

Mumbrella Award for Bravery

Mumbrella Award for Insight

Mumbrella Award for Innovation

Mumbrella Award for Culture

Mumbrella Award for Data-driven Marketing

Mumbrella Award for Collaboration

Marketing Technology Company of the Year

Agency Leader of the Year

Under-30 Achiever of the Year

PR Idea of the Year

Media Idea of the Year

Social Idea of the Year

Best Use of Experiential

Mobile Ad of the Year (new)

Media Brand of the Year (new)

Creative Effectiveness

Best Content Marketing/Native Advertising Work

Best Use of a Social Media Influencer or Social Media Influencers (new)

Most Engaging 360 Video/Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality Work

Engaging with Millennials Award

Best Use of Programmatic

Disruptor of the Year

Best Localisation of a Global Strategy

Marketing Team/Marketer of the Year (new)

Campaign of the Year

Independent Agency of the Year (new)

Public Relations Agency of the Year  

Specialist Agency of the Year  

Media Agency of the Year  

Creative Agency of the Year  

My point is not so much a criticism, but more a recognition of the enormous challenge my fellow jurors and I will be faced in judging across 31 awards categories, although each individual juror will only be tasked with reviewing the entries in two categories.

We don’t want to break people and that is one of the reasons why we have nearly 200 mainly client-side marketers on the jury as well as two rounds of judging. Indeed, the second round will be a marathon as those shortlisted from round one will then be asked to present their case live to the jury (and take questions from us) on either October 11 or 12 during our two live judging days in Singapore. 

But back to the discussion, with all the shiny new platforms powered by sexy cool technologies offered up on easy-to-buy buffet-style platters, it is possible for campaign approaches to get distracted. To sometimes consume too much of some things or the wrong elements altogether.  

In fact, we can become so absorbed by the power of new technologies and obsessive about being seen to adopt them that these platforms mutate from being tools of our trade into the drivers of our strategy.

The danger in this is that our work becomes all about us and our industry, and not about the audience. For when client ego meets agency hubris, the consumer gets forgotten. We need to be humble enough to accept the answer sometimes lies in consumer insight, not in our collective professional cleverness.

As I ponder this paradigm I find clarity, and a little irony, in the old adage: ‘The more things change the more they stay the same.’ For all this technology-driven change in the last couple of decades, in our industry what remains our steady and sturdy guiding star is one core principle. People.  

Marketing is a human business, this has not changed nor will it ever. And what I look for in the development of any great marketing campaign is that it started with the audience in mind. Strong, clear, emotionally-compelling human insight that ties a brand to it’s consumer in such a motivating way that they can’t ignore its relevance to them.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of technology as much as any in my profession. But not when it becomes bigger than the consumer. Cool platforms work when the technology has means to amplify the insight and idea better than before. The use of data in smart and insightful ways can have an amazing impact on relevance and outcomes. But only when used in service of the consumer or end user, not for us as an industry to prove how smart we are or to just win awards.

The focus on data can become to much about the what. Knowing what our consumer does and when. This is certainly helpful, but it really becomes truly powerful when we understand the why.  We still need to understand the fundamental human insights that drive the behaviour rather than just see the end outcome. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

Great platforms need great insight to deliver powerful and meaningful outcomes. Great stories are still the best way to communicate and build emotional relevance. This remains a fundamental truth.

Whether it’s evaluating work on a day to day basis or judging awards I want to know the why?  Why is this piece of work important? Why will it deliver results? Why will it be the best use of our investment versus the many other options? Why should the audience care?

So when it comes to judging awards entries first and foremost, there needs to be a clearly stated strategic objective – why are we doing this. A manifestation of strong human insight, that shapes the campaign idea and ultimately the creative expression, channels and platforms that activate. The work must be true to the strategic objective, not just cool.

The human point holds true not just for the audience, who consume our campaigns but also for our people who create them. I’m really heartened to see awards that recognise the achievements of the people within our industry and the focus on how people get the work done.  

I’m particularly excited to see awards categories that focus on culture and diversity. Nurturing our people and our culture is not only the right thing to do, it will ultimately deliver the best work. Because we should, not because we can.

Nicole McMillan is vice-president of marketing at Mars for Asia, the Middle East and Africa


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