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Hard work and harmony – all in a day’s work at the DMA Awards judging | B2B Marketing

Judging the B2B category at the DMA Awards was a thoroughly informative and insightful experience, says Joel Harrison – although as ever the extreme variability of the quality of entries left more than a little to be desired!

I’ve just spent a highly informative and engaging day (well, three-quarters of a day, to be precise) judging the B2B category of the DMA Awards.

While I’m very familiar with awards programmes, and awards entries, having been closely involved with

the International B2B Marketing Awards

since we launched it 15 years ago, it’s a long time since I’ve even been in the room when judging deliberations are taking place – let alone actively participating. So I was really looking forward to getting stuck into reading the entries, and discussing them with other judges.

The judging for the DMA Awards takes place over four days at a dedicated facility (this year on Euston Road in London) with several streams running concurrently. That means you’re in the building with around 60 judges – a mixture of clients, agencies, vendors and consultants – and therefore a good place to network. I really enjoyed catching up with some contacts I’d not seen for a while, and making some new connections. (The DMA has asked me to point out that there are over 300 judges involved during the whole process.)

However, while it’s pleasant to build or refresh your network, it’s not without a cost in terms of hard work – because of the high number of entries this year in the B2B category, the eight-strong judging panel had to review and score all the entries in the morning for the preliminary round, and then go back in the afternoon to discuss the shortlist and provide final grades. Other, smaller categories were all done by lunchtime.

All the scoring was done on personal iPads, with all the information and collateral available on a dedicated app. From a judging experience (JX!) point of view, it was as seamless as it could have been, but given the sheer volume of material to wade through it was perhaps inevitable that judges defaulted to watching campaign videos rather than reading copy, as it made the information much easier to absorb.

Different strokes for different folks

Our judging panel comprised a mix of inhouse or client-side marketers, with some agency or creative thrown in (plus category sponsor Rocketseed) and it was interesting to understand the different perspectives provided by these different personas. This mix of opinions was valuable in helping us get to our decision, and there was a heart warming and perhaps even surprising degree of harmony among us all in terms of our analysis and verdicts in the second round.

We were asked to score entries on three primary judging criteria: creativity, strategy and results – however, targeting (or perhaps the lack of it) often came to the fore in these discussions, which was appropriate given that this discipline should underpin and direct marketing-related campaign.  

Because the scoring was done privately via the app, although the organisers told us that we had a clear winner, they didn’t tell us who that was, nor who (if anyone) got silver and bronze. This is partly frustrating, but I understand the rationale for maintaining confidentiality – it will provide added piquancy and relevance to attending the awards ceremony later in the year.

As regards the quality: while there was some excellent work submitted, there were also some submissions that were frankly a bit cringe-worthy – not necessarily in terms of the quality of the marketing that was executed, but the relevance and comprehendability of the submission. If the job of marketing and marketing agencies is to make ideas, products or propositions simple and compelling, then some of those entering here didn’t even get close, and in some instances under-represented and diminished the appearance of (what may have been) some very good work. (To be fair the DMA, this is a criticism sometimes levelled by judges at our awards too, so they are far from unique in this!).

My rationale for pointing this out is not to discourage marketers or agencies from entering: Quite the opposite! It’s to have someone senior cast a critical eye over the submission before it is sent, and think: ‘Does what you’re written simply and succinctly explain the challenge, the solution and the results?’ And does it present my agency in the best possible light? If the answer is ‘no’ then I would suggest starting again from scratch.

But despite this minor gripe, judging the DMA Awards was a great experience, and I would certainly recommend it.

The shortlist for the B2B category for the DMA Awards is as follows:


Bringing Energy Resilience to life

Agency: Earnest
Client: Centrica Business Solutions


End to End: Stronger Together

Agency: The Armstrong Partnership
Client: Bucher Emhart Glass


Premier Inn Business Booker

Agency: Havas helia
Client: Premier Inn


The Magic of Mail

Agency: LIDA
Client: Royal Mail MarketReach


Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles – Crafter

Agency: Proximity London
Client: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles

Winners are announced at a

ceremony on 5 December.


B2B Marketing Awards 2018

The B2B Marketing Awards takes place on 22 November, celebrating outstanding work, talent and achievements across the industry. Join us, along with more than 800 guests, for the biggest B2B night of the year.


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