Common criteria for creating award-winning video campaigns that cut through the clutter

Table of content
  1. Introduction
  2. Strategic thinking
  3. Creativity and innovation
  4. Results-driven
  5. Socially responsible
  6. Sustainable
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Kylie Taylor
2 years ago・10 min read

In today’s fast-paced working environment, where consumers want more from brands than ever before, and marketers rush to keep up with content demands, finding the time to create truly high caliber, quality work is one challenge. Finding the time to enter that aforementioned work into industry awards is altogether another.

But just because it’s time consuming, it doesn’t mean it should be shunted into the ‘too hard’ basket – not only do industry awards bring much kudos to your career crown, when assessing common key threads of creative marketing work, it’s also clear to see they drive results.

From the Oscars to the Globes to the Asian Television Awards, award-winning film and television series draw viewers. In fact, a simple Oscar nomination can add around US$20 million to box office earnings. The King’s Speech (2010) for example, was initially projected to gross earnings just US$30 million, but after its Best Picture Oscar nomination and subsequent win, it went on to make more than US$400 million at the box office. This is because nominations and awards provide films with additional publicity which in turn, attracts greater international distributors – a fact referred to as the “Oscar halo.”

But how do industry awards affect their ‘box office’ equivalent – sales? While the research as a standalone is murky, what is clear is that creativity results in greater cut-through with consumers.
McKinsey’s Award Creativity Score1 – which measures its unique formula of the number of Cannes Lions Awards won, against the breadth of categories and consistency over time – found that 67% of companies that score in the top quartile have above-average organic revenue growth. What’s more, the same study revealed that 70% of winners have above-average total return to shareholders and 74% above-average net enterprise value.

In The Case for Creativity, James Hermann2 found the brands which won the Cannes Advertiser of the Year category from 1999 to 2015 outperformed the S&P 500 by a factor of 3.5. And data from Nielsen, which analysed 500 FMCG campaigns shows creativity is responsible for 47% of sales uplift, ahead of reach at 22%, branding at 15% and targeting advertising at 9%.3

So, we know the correlation between influencing consumer behavior and award-winning content is there, but why should video be your chosen medium?

As the world’s leading video content creation platform, working with thousands of brands across 160+ countries around the world, we’re obviously biased, but even so, the stats speak for themselves. Sales teams using video in prospecting efforts see open rates on emails at a level five times higher than those who don’t.4 Having a video on your landing page increases conversion rates by 80%, with 74% of users who’ve watched a Product Demo, subsequently going on to purchase it5. And with that video on your homepage, you’re also 53 times more likely to secure a spot on Google’s front page of search results according to ComScore6.

We’ve hopefully sold you on the reasons behind why you should be working to produce award-winning level content and convinced you that video should be your chosen vehicle, but how does one go about creating content that stands out from the hundreds of submissions and secures judges’ attention?

While the core drivers may differ slightly depending on the different types of awards out there, generally speaking an award-winning video campaign tends to deliver on the same set of criteria: clear strategic thinking, creativity and innovation, and tangible results and outcomes. A WARC study, using three Cannes Lions winners by way of a case study – Volvo’s Live Test video series, Hindustan Unilever’s ‘Kan Khajura Tessa’ a stunning mobile marketing initiative and Kmart’s Ship my Pants video – also found these themes as consistent criteria, alongside ensuring its easily socially-shareable, something that video has in spades!

Using this universal judging criteria as a guide, as well as a few of our own insights, we’ve collated our global expertise to provide advice on how you can create award-winning campaigns of your own that cut through the clutter through a sharp creative concept, as well as deliver on results.

Strategic thinking

Having a solid video marketing strategy is more vital than ever and it needs to be priority one from the get go. It’s paramount to get your foundation right before you start building, because award-winning content always delivers on results and you can’t show results, without a clear initial strategy.

Nothing delivers results like the moving image – it elicits emotion, develops characters and increases viewer retention. Moving visuals are processed 60,000 times more quickly than text7; they’re more emotive, engaging and can communicate ideas in a way that words simply cannot. Viewers retain 95% of a message when ingested via video, contrasted strongly with just 10% when read8. But it’s not just about message retention – marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users and generate 66% more qualified leads per year9.

Your strategy must be front of mind always – with so much scope, it’s easy to get carried away. Your video must be tailored to reach maximum effect. If not, you risk ending up with a wishy-washy piece of content that is neither here nor there. Award-winning content has a very clear and focused purpose.

Strategy will be largely determined by the targeted audience. How old is your target audience? Where do they work or where do they spend most of their time online? This will help determine tone, as well as placement. What are the main customer pain points? Focus your video accordingly – the solution to this problem will serve as the framework for your video, helping you to choose which style of video you opt for – a Product Demo, Animation, or Customer Story piece for example.

Then once you’ve picked your style, get moving but be quick about it – in today’s digital, content-saturated age marketers need to capture attention quickly – within three seconds to be precise. Leave nothing to chance – the graphics, title and first few seconds of the intro of your video need to instantly woo the audience. Think strategically and creatively about how you’re going to ensure your video stands out. With an entire library of content to choose from, the temptation for customers (and judges!) to keep scrolling is very real.

Creativity and innovation

In 2022, where mind-blowing metrics and inventive technology is relatively accessible to all, you still can’t beat the art of a good storyline. In fact, emotion and storytelling coupled with a creative approach and a good idea, are still the most important focus for any advertising campaign according to a study revealed in Harvard Business Review10. According to the findings, a euro invested in a highly creative ad campaign had, on average, nearly double the sales impact of a euro spent on a non-creative campaign.

Superhuman, this year’s Cannes Lions Grand Prix winner produced for Channel 4’s coverage of the Tokyo Paralympic Games, combines the emotive storytelling aspect, set to an irreverent soundtrack and interspersed with creative video techniques from animation to what appears to be UGC. Like we see in this Superhuman example, advertisements with a high level of artistic creativity contain aesthetically pleasing verbal, visual, and sound elements. No creative stone is left unturned: quality of production is extremely high (something we excel at here at 90 Seconds) and every element stands out in itself. The music is uniquely memorable and even the colour palette is original. As such, the result is more of a work of art, a beautiful film, than a sales pitch for a television channel.


Both business metrics, like sales figures and revenue, as well as softer metrics like social reach, engagement, PR value etc., are important for measuring success and should form a core part of your award submission summary. At the end of the day – no matter how beautiful your campaign is, it’s still advertising – you’re entering Cannes Lions not the Cannes Palm d’Or – and as such, you need to be able to show that your brilliant work isn’t just all style and no substance!

By using video, you’re already one step ahead – marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users and generate 66% more qualified leads per year11. And by using 90 Seconds that step ahead is all the greater, as measurement is easily done across 90 Seconds’ intuitive platform, where you can share and track such successful engagement across social channels, examining cut through and click rates.

So, you’ve aligned on strategy, nailed a uniquely creative approach and have your measurement tools in place. You’re good to go… almost. There are two more categories brands must consider when producing campaigns and arguably, these are the single most important influencing factors: ensuring work is socially responsible and culturally relevant, as well as produced in a sustainable way. Campaigns that aren’t socially aware, produced sustainably or deliver on consumer’s rightfully high expectations and standards are going to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Socially responsible

Take Pepsi’s now infamous BLM commercial featuring Kendall Jenner, or most recently Samsung’s campaign which depicted a women running alone through London at night (with earbuds in no less!) which was removed for being deemed ‘irresponsible;’ brands need to pay razor sharp attention to public discourse and ensure inclusion at every stage of the creation journey.

In the example of Samsung, with the safety of women strongly featuring in British public discourse following the tragic deaths of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa – both of whom were targeted and killed at night – rather than go viral for its beautiful cinematography and landscape, it instead had the public questioning how a brand could miss the mark in such a way. This in turn, led to questions around the demographic breakdown of the decision-makers and teams behind the campaign. A mistake being made time and time again. Women are the most powerful consumers on the planet, making 85% of all purchasing decisions according to Adweek12, yet incredulously, the advertising industry doesn’t reflect this weighting and there are very few women producing the very commercials designed to appeal to that very same demographic.

Just 11% of the world’s Creative Directors are female, so it is therefore unsurprising that 91% of female consumers feel advertisers don’t understand them. Seven in 10 women go further to say they feel “alienated” by advertising.13 While Samsung and their agency involved didn’t necessarily reveal the gender breakdown of the team behind the campaign, one can’t help but question this – if more women were involved in producing this creative work, surely the result would have been a campaign that wasn’t so dreadfully out of touch? Instead, the focus may have been on the beautiful cinematography, the carefully crafted soundtrack, the subtlety of brand exposure and the diversity of talent represented?

Campaigns must be culturally relevant, and brands need to be socially responsible. A good idea and excellent creative delivery aren’t enough – in fact, all of that can be undone in an instance if your campaign misses the social mark.


With concern for the environment at a record high14 placing it at the top of consumer priorities, sustainable production practices must be at the very heart of all creative work – even more so if that creative work is going to be examined under a judging microscope.

Consumer attention on a company’s sustainability and social business practices has never been higher – most recently Aflac found that 77% of customers would purchase directly as a result of a company having implemented strong CSR policies focused on sustainability practices15. Businesses that fail to pivot their working processes accordingly will undoubtedly be held to account.

At 90 Seconds, our business model was built with sustainability at its very heart. Through operating at a local level through our ‘Shoot Anywhere’ commitment, we enable global brands to create content, locally, in over 900 cities, across 160 countries, with access to a database of 13,800 talented creatives and creators. We’ve essentially eliminated the need for global travel, ensuring both carbon and budget efficiency – production metrics a lot of awards are now assessing as part of their production criteria. By supporting local infrastructure and working closely to ensure every aspect of a shoot is managed responsibility from a sustainability POV, in partnering with 90 Seconds, you can rest assured you’re working with a safe (and green) pair of hands.

With award entries often calling for time, attention and budget, it comes to stand that to make it worth your while, you need to have campaigns that hit each and every one of the above metrics – video campaigns that are strategic, creative, results-heavy, as well as socially responsible and sustainably-created. To take advantage of the ‘Oscar halo’ effect, you’ve got to first ensure you stand out from other entrants, but in doing so, you’re investing in marketing campaigns that not only deliver clear ROI, but plenty of precious metal for your office shelves.

  1. Creativity’s bottom line: How winning companies turn creativity into business value and growth
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  6. Digital Marketing & the Impact of Video
  7. Zabisco | Portfolio (
  8. 50 Must Know Stats About Video & Animation Marketing- Insivia
  9. 135 Video Marketing Statistics You Can’t Ignore in 2022 (
  10. Creativity in Advertising: When It Works and When It Doesn’t (
  11. 135 Video Marketing Statistics You Can’t Ignore in 2022 (
  12. STUDY: Advertisers Don’t Understand Women (
  13. Creative Equals
  14. Concern for the environment at record highs | YouGov
  15. Corporate Citizenship (