The case for a good case study

By Nick Cummins, Creative Partner, The Royals Sydney and Melbourne

This post originally appeared on industry website Campaign Brief.

Going into the judging at Spikes Asia this year, I was concerned that national styles would play a big part in the judges’ decisions. I was lucky enough to be on Kentaro Kimora’s Digital and mobile panel along with judges from China, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea and the Philippines. So we all had the potential to be drawn to very different styles of humour, insights and solutions. But that wasn’t the case.

Although the work we judged – which started as a list of over 500 entries – was very diverse in tonality and levels of craft, the judges were very consistent in their views. Another thing that was very consistent over the four days of judging apart from the humidity, was how everyone entering these kinds of festivals ends up building the same style of case study.

There is a formula for a reason, I hear you cry. And yes, there are probably a few things that are important to keep doing but the problem is everything ends up looking like this – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRDhx8Lo37E

The great thing about judging awards like this is you get to hang out with incredible people from our industry, from all different parts of the region and the world. We really are an amazingly smart, insightful, creative and funny bunch of individuals.

So why when it comes to representing our work do we lose our gift of great storytelling and end up producing cookie-cutter over-hyped communications? I don’t think a case study should necessarily outshine the entered piece, but surely there are other ways to represent our work. I asked my fellow esteemed judges what they felt about this and here are a few thoughts.

Get to the point. Every judge I met was really bright even after several Tiger beers the night before. You don’t have to tell them lots of people are using their phones these days or that people are distracted by lots of messages every day. Get straight to the point – what did you do and how did you do it? Personally I don’t think you even need to over-explain the brief or problem you are trying to solve. It will be obvious what your brief was if your solution is award worthy.

Don’t exaggerate. Dipping in to a big tub of hyperbole to get your entry to be taken seriously doesn’t work. We forget that a solution doesn’t have to have changed the world to win an award.

Keep it real. We watched a lot of videos of stunts, experiments, pop-ups, and activations. It was nice to see so many friends from agencies in the background looking intrigued and elated. The problem with this is not just their mediocre acting skills – it also makes great ideas feel like scams. People don’t have to point or clap or cry to prove an idea worked well or is great. So if you are going to record reactions, use the real audience reacting in real ways. And avoid creating a perfectly photoshopped example of your execution. Judges love picking that stuff to pieces and again, it makes the work feel dodgy.

Don’t over-animate. The amount of spinning, crashing, zooming stats, Tweets and quotes was incredibly distracting. And finally music is obviously important. Most case studies did this well. Finding the right track and voice to deliver the appropriate emotion can make a huge difference.

This year, teams entering the Spikes innovation category got to present their work to the judging panel. This I think is a great way to judge work. If you are ever lucky enough to make that shortlist, get ready to be grilled.

Nick.