The B2B category at the DMA Awards included some excellent work from across a broad range of sectors, demonstrating some innovative solutions to a diverse range of business challenges
about my very positive experiences judging the B2B category at the DMA Awards this year, and my slight frustration at the end of the session that they didn’t even tell us (the panel) who won! Well, now that the awards ceremony has happened, the trophies have been awarded, the champagne has been guzzled … and no doubt the hangovers have been struggled through, as promised to the DMA I can offer my perspective on the shortlist and the great work therein.
If you’ve not heard already, the category was won by ‘Stronger Together’ for glass and bottle manufacturer Bucher Emhart Glass, by Chester-based agency Armstrong Partnership. This campaign stood out for its bold strength and simplicity of idea and execution, but more particularly because of the level of strategy that went into the solution. It was clear from the submission that the agency had used customer insight and market knowledge to challenge the client in their expectations and objectives, and that they had genuinely influenced business strategy, bringing new products or solutions to market. Then they had promoted that new offering brilliantly.
This kind of strategic role and remit is something that many agencies (B2B or B2C) aspire to and claim to be able to offer, but personally I’ve seen very limited examples of it in practice. So this campaign stood and out and was a welcome and refreshing change. It actually partly broke the DMA’s submission and judging criteria, which appeared to be focused around how the agency responded to the strategy determined by the client, rather than how agency actually informed it, challenged it or developed it. I would encourage the DMA to review this.
The silver trophy went to Havas Helia for the ‘Premier Inn booker’ campaign, which (funnily enough) was for client Premier Inn. The DMA probably will doubtless claim these awards never were (and certainly are no longer) focused purely on direct mail as a medium, but this campaign was a masterclass in, amongst other things, how to use this most traditional of mediums to surprise, delight and amuse. It brought a smile not just in the minds of the judges, but around the table, with a series of envelopes inside one another designed to set the scene of business travel booking being repetitious … each one carrying the same message.
There was also a digital component, via an app which was clever and made the campaign multi-platform and provided longevity – something which all B2B campaigns must strive to do. The best ideas in life are often those that appear simple – although as anyone in marketing knows, you often have to work quite hard to make something look simple!
The bronze went to a campaign called ‘Energy resilience’ for Centrica by Earnest, which delivered my favourite moment of the whole day – a video showing the screen of an iPhone belonging to a senior exec at a large tech company as a day of business and personal calamities unfolded. The story was told only by text, messenger and email communications appearing on screen, as the crisis deepened – although some faintly chilling background music heightened the tension.
It was one of those moments that beautifully demonstrated the role of emotion in B2B, and the power of leaving much of the narrative to the imagination. Even though it was only a matter of minutes long, it still managed to generate a significant amount of second-hand tension and fear at the events that were apparently unfolding. I would defy anyone to watch it and not go and check their own power resilience!
But if this video was so good, why didn’t this campaign win gold, you might reasonably be asking? The consensus of the judging panel was that it was one element which was a slight adjunct to the rest of the campaign – which was very good, but didn’t quite reach the heights that the previous two campaigns had achieved, overall. So it got bronze, which in a category with over 30 entries (which I understand was one of the largest in this awards programme), is still a great result. With that in mind it’s worth saying that all those entries shortlisted did extremely well to make it that far, and should be commended.
There were other B2B brands and campaigns scattered around the winners of the DMA Awards 2018, which was nice to see, amidst the din by FMCG brands – which to someone from a B2B background always appears somewhat facile and one dimensional (…although without doubt, those involved would see this differently).
However, it’s great to see that B2B as a category and a sector is alive and well in the DMA community, is in demand and punching above its weight in terms of the quality of the top entries. Thanks again to the DMA for asking to be involved with the judging for their extremely well-run and reputable awards programme – I sincerely hope to be invited back.