Experience shone through among this year's Campaign Tech Awards nominees
A view from Nick Farnhill

Experience shone through among this year's Campaign Tech Awards nominees

This year's outstanding work used a mix of data and creativity to better connect the medium, message and moment, showing the industry how it can raise the bar.

While we remain in this lockdown limbo, the awards season trucks on and nothing will stop the gongs being handed out to the most deserving of work. Early on when crisis talks dominated every conversation, it was debated whether awards minus the live event should go ahead, but this misses the point. The celebratory evening show, wherever it may be held, is obviously a great night out for all involved, especially if you take home some metal, but it can be dropped with nothing taken away from the winners or the work.

As chair of this year’s Campaign Tech Awards, I see more reasons than ever to seek out being honoured for your work. Winning differentiates agencies in an increasingly noisy marketplace and drives new business. It attracts and helps retain great talent and there’s nothing better for helping a career skyrocket than a couple of titaniums on a CV.

But, for me, the main reason awards are so very beneficial is that they up our game, they reset the bar and they demonstrate what we should aim for and be capable of in respect of our clients' needs and the effectiveness of our work. As a result, they help progress our industry and the talent within it. So whether IRL or virtual, I’m pleased that the shows continue to go on, and here’s to the 2020 Campaign Tech Awards. I do not yet know the winners of each category but I'll be sure to tune in when they are announced at 5pm on 24 and 25 June in Campaign's virtual awards ceremony.

So what jumps out across the shortlisted entries for this year’s finalists? What are the themes and trends to take note of? To assist – and I hope I’m not viewed as lazy with this – I ran a quick word-cloud analysis of all the shortlisted entries. Dominating the examination is "experience", whether physically or online – especially with entries involving footwear. Both Puma (above) and Auxiliary Shoes submitted impressive in-store experiences. Adidas, on the other hand, partnered WeTransfer to promote its Ultraboost 20 sneaker. 

No surprises here, but "data" also looms large in the word-cloud analysis. A brilliantly simple execution from the team at Manning Gottlieb OMD for Specsavers uses a complex mix of first-party data with location, time of day and behavioural science principles. This resulted in a digital out-of-home submission that helped customers easily check off an eye test from their to-do list. Smart and creative use of data also sits at the heart of the IBM Watson Wimbledon campaign (below).

You could have easily laid bets on the next hot-topic area – artificial intelligence. A wonderful entry comes from Essence and Google’s Project Pegasus, with AI driving a uniquely personalised execution. In a partnership with The Guardian, the team brought to life the magic of Google Nest in everyday ways to engage readers in the moment. All in a privacy-first fashion, perfectly personalised and not at all creepy. 

The perfect personalised experience for me, though, was thoughtfully submitted by online florist Bloom & Wild, which makes sending and receiving flowers the joy that it should be. But while many people want to celebrate special occasions such as Mother's Day or Valentine's Day with flowers, for some these marketing reminders can bring complicated feelings. By using a customer engagement tool developed by Braze and an opt-out campaign that wasn’t focused on increased sales, the company aligned with its core values of putting customers first and showing it cares. 

Finally, "Google" is a 48-plus font size on the word-cloud examination, with many entries all utilising the platform's tech stack. It’s what will go unseen to the user with these submissions that I find fascinating. Adidas, for example, has benefited from the smart integration of Google Cloud with Google Ads and the Google Merchant Center – two services that don’t usually "talk" to each other easily – to automatically add custom price extensions directly into Google Ads.  

This mix of data and creativity to better connect the medium, message and moment is what I’ve found so interesting about the shortlisted submissions and where I see this year’s Campaign Tech Awards push us to raise the bar. This is the work that any progressive communications agency should seek to understand deeply and provide (perhaps) under the one roof. A mix of experience design, tech development, content production, media planning and creativity working in a truly integrated manner will help meet the ever-shifting expectations of audiences and consumers.

Finally, a thank you to all who entered and the very best of luck to those shortlisted. All the winners will be announced across 24 and 25 June with a live online broadcast. Also, my thanks to this year’s judges and the many Zoom calls you participated in. Your input and help have been invaluable. 

Now, grab a glass of Champagne, dress to impress and launch your browser. Let this year’s awards  watch party begin… 

Nick Farnhill is chief executive of Publicis.Poke