Why Barclays and Toolstation grabbed the glory in the B2B category at the DMA Awards 2022

Two excellent but highly contrasting campaigns emerged victorious from a high class shortlist to take the Gold and Silver trophies at the DMA Awards in December. But why did they win? Here are my insights as a judge for this category

I’ve blogged previously about my experience as a judge for the B2B category at the DMA Awards, where I offered some opinions about the entries that I thought stood out amongst those that we (the judging panel) reviewed. However, I couldn’t reveal the winner, because the scores and the overall verdict had remained confidential and undisclosed to the panel – I couldn’t have shared this even if I’d wanted to! Given the august nature of the judging panel, who have all signed NDAs prior to the judging commencing, I’m sure this precaution is more about maintaining the suspense amongst the judges than for fear of the result being leaked. If that’s the case, it certainly worked! I was on tenterhooks to know who had won.

Well now the ceremony has taken place, and the winners revealed, I’m (finally!) at liberty to say a few words about the very worthy winners. First of all ‘Witness the Quickness’ for Toolstation by Havas CX Helia. I love this campaign, in no small part due to the fact that the title (and backing track) was a riff on ‘Witness the fitness’ by Roots Manuva, which is a rare but welcome example of a B2B brand ‘borrowing’ a cult music track to give a campaign an extra dimension. B2C brands do this regularly, plundering music from any of the last six decades, and giving their campaigns a hook that resonates long after the commercial has finished. The resonance of this device with the audience of independent builders was surely not lost on the agency, and I can imagine chippies, brickies and plumbers etc. across the UK having this musical earworm stuck in their heads each time they went to source materials. I’m not suggesting this would work in all B2B scenarios – probably the minority rather than the majority – but it was great to see this crossover of a well-worn consumer technique into the most B2C-like of B2B categories.

But use of music wasn’t the sole reason for the success of the campaign – the DMA Awards judges aren’t that easy to please! ‘Witness the quickness’ was simple but highly effective, recognising and responding to their need for ‘just-in-time’ material sourcing, and communicating in means and manner that resonated strongly. Consequently, it has transformed Toolstation’s e-commerce revenues. It was a very worthy Gold winner.

Barclays goes long on empathy

The Silver winner was also extremely worthy, although for completely different reasons. Oliver’s ‘Black futures’ campaign for Barclays Bank was also both extremely simple and extraordinarily effective, using case studies of Black entrepreneurs to demonstrate the bank’s understanding of this audience (which research shows has often felt overlooked and undervalued), and demonstrating both empathy and understanding. The case studies were authentic and well executed - I only hope it’s not a one-off exercise, and that Barclays takes the opportunity to build on this great start, and build a genuine reputation as a champion for this group of business owners.

Although there were other great entries in this category, I feel that the judges got it right, and that these were justly recognised as the standout campaigns. I was interested that both these campaigns were by agencies who are largely B2C in focus who are dabbling in B2B, and the campaigns themselves were both SME focused, therefore not having to deal with the complexity of complex decision making units that face brands selling to corporates. In other words, this is the most B2C end of a very rich and varied B2B world. In many ways, you could say that this is the tip of the B2B iceberg.

Congratulations to all concerned, and everyone who made the shortlist – it was a significant achievement against stiff competition from some very well known brands and highly successful agencies. Thanks also to Scott Stockwell for his brilliant moderation, and Sam Williams Thomas, Claire Wood and all the other judges who deliberated this year, leveraging their collective knowledge and experience. For reasons of objectivity and integrity, I’m not able to participate in the judging for our own B2B Marketing Awards, so being involved in the DMAs is thoroughly enjoyable. I hope to judge again next year, if the DMA will have me back!

The Toolstation team collects their trophy at the DMA Awards