OPINION5 December 2017

Winning awards is hard to do

Awards Opinion UK

After a glittering MRS Awards ceremony in London last night, chair of the Research Live judges, Jane Bainbridge, shares some thoughts on winning.

Research Live 2017_ judges_crop

Awards nights are strange affairs. Initially full of so much anticipation and hope, and yet, as has been frequently said, by the end of the evening there are inevitably more losers than winners in the room.

This was my third year chairing the Research Live awards and I've learnt a few things over that time. Not least, to prepare for the sad faces approaching me as the announcements end and everyone troops to the bar. There have been sharp words too, on occasion.

So this year, for a couple of reasons, I was minded to write this piece. Firstly, because as I stood on stage – trying not to squint awkwardly despite the megawatts of light shining directly at me – when one category winner was announced, it was clear that some tables were not happy with the winner. It was the booing that gave it away.

Secondly, it was some heartfelt questioning by one person at the bar as they said in desperation ‘what exactly do we have to do to win – we've entered for four years and nothing?'

Now I know this is going to sound a little trite, but it really is true: to be a finalist is extraordinary. To have got to that point, the entry is definitely very good and quite probably excellent. If you are a finalist, you have already beaten lots of other entries to get that accolade.

In some categories, the differences between the handful of finalists are minimal. One year there may just be a standout entry, that lifts it clear of the pack. Sometimes, it requires incredibly tight scrutiny of how an entrant has met all the criteria and much debate to determine the winner.

But what always happens, is that a group of client insight directors spend hours and hours of their precious time, poring over entries, carefully considering 500 words of submission statements, to ensure the very best win. I'm always amazed and grateful in equal measure at the rigour they put into the process.

And for the record, because I've heard this said more than once, there is no preference to sponsors, any judges who have papers entered are excluded from judging that category and the decision is made entirely on what is on the entry – not external gossip or hearsay.

So, in answer to the ‘what do we have to do to win?’ question. You have to enter; you have to read the criteria and meet it – it is there for a reason; you have to make those 500 words count with evidence of what you claim and not just corporate fluff; you need to get good, named supporting statements; you need to not give this to an office junior to fill out. And you need to be really, really good – to have had a brilliant year, created a fantastic project, done incredible insight.

Once again, thank you to all the wonderful Research Live judges this year and well done to all the finalists – with very special congratulations to the highly commended and winners. They were absolutely deserved. 

The full list of 2017 MRS Awards winners can be found here.

Pictured L-R, Research Live awards judging panel: James Holden, BBC News; Ross Antrobus, The Football Association; Debrah Harding, MRS; Mike Taylor, Vodafone; Jane Bainbridge, Research Live and Impact; Katherine Feres, Betfair Paddy Power; Jake Steadman, Twitter; Rhea Fox, eBay; Stuart Fox, Camargue