Exclusive Judges Insight: How to Craft a Perfect Annual 2021 Entry

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The Annual 2021 deadline is now little more than a week away. Like every year, entries have been flowing in from all over the industry, and if you are thinking about putting the finishing touches on your entries, you are probably not alone in that.

This year, our judging panels are welcoming some of the most influential figures in the history of The Annual, all equally excited to see what you are going to share. But what will the judges be looking for in this year’s submissions?

We asked them all to share a few tips and comments on how they can be impressed by your entries, and a few main areas of interest emerged. These are:

  • Authenticity
  • Innovation
  • Emotional Impact
  • Effectiveness
  • Quality of Craft

Each of our esteemed judges in every single panel will focus on different aspects of your submissions, but if you truly want to know what makes them tick and what can help you craft a perfect entry, keep reading!

Enter Annual 2021!


A picture of the Annual 2020 trophies, courtesy of a very excited team at Cheddar Creative!


Amongst all the areas of interest that surfaced, authenticity took the centre stage. After a year like no other, our judges will be looking for meaning, ideas with purpose, true understanding of one’s presence in the industry, as well as great stories connected to your projects. How did Covid-19 influence your work last year? What have you crafted to stand out from the crowd?

Here are some quotes from our judges to get you started and inspired:

“I am excited to be inspired by teams and work that found ways to use creativity and core values to create real meaning and relevance for brands, particularly during this past challenging year.”
Carrie Philpott, President at Wunderman Thompson | Emerging Agency of the Year

“What I'll be looking for is projects which have started with a purpose, have thoughtfully considered their audience, creatively executed their ideas and most importantly demonstrated how they've achieved real world impact. That could be presented by telling the story of their journey, from the idea at the start, all the way through to the results at the end. What will really stand out for me, is if they've managed to overcome obstacles and inspire others along the way. Not an easy task, but making the world a better place isn't an easy job and those who do it well definitely deserve to be awarded for their work. Because if there's one thing we've all learnt from the pandemic, it's that our world needs as much social good as possible.”
Emma Collacott, Senior Brand & Communications Strategist at WWF | Social Good

“As I'm judging the Best Brand to Work For category, I'll be looking for brands that have created an environment that enables creativity to flourish and people to grow. I'd expect this to come through in real personal stories at all levels of the business, illustrating how the brand has positively impacted those who work for it."
Martin Cassidy, Head of Design & Creative at Aviva Investors | Best Brand to Work For

"I will be on the lookout for work that oozes creativity, courage and authenticity that has also driven a great result. I firmly believe the journey is as important as the destination, so wow us with your story and really bring to life the problem, the solution and the result.”
Samantha Dolan, Head of Marketing at Aunt Bessie’s | Effectiveness

“The past year has been unreal, and from this severe and very intensive pressure have evolved some ideas that would not, could not have happened in the 'normal' world. These reality-defying, reality-defining ideas are a testament to the human nature's core instinct of survival, innate creativity and the evolution that leapfrogs the world we live in and our industry forward.”
Kamakshi Thareja, Head of Strategy at VMLY&R | Integrated

“The creative solution, or “big idea” as I like to call it, is really important to me. I’m looking for intelligent and authentic thinking, ideas that make me wish I’d thought of them. I want to know how you came up with the idea and why. How it answered the brief, and crucially, how it made a difference.
I want to see creative ideas that are thoughtfully and beautifully executed, that lead me on a journey and stay with me long after judging is complete. 
And I want to hear about your blood, sweat and tears. I want to feel as if I’m right there in the creative process with you, reliving every triumph and every setback that got you to the end result you are so proud of. Good luck!”
David Alexander, Creative Director & Head of Studio at The Frameworks | Graphic

“What I will look for is how agencies are moving from promo to activation. Experiential has always been a type of work connected to some sort of creative promotion. And I believe that the times we are in, it is more important what brands make you feel than how the discount is delivered. I will be looking for experiences which help the brand create a relationship with their audience.”
Lluis Rotger, Experiential Creative Lead at DDB Prague & DDB FTW Worldwide | Experiential

“I will be looking for an agency who understands who they are, what they offer to the world and how this differs from the multiple competitors that will be running through my mind, as well as the thinking, creativity and craft that has gone into any of their case studies.
Additionally, please be mindful and respectful of the time it will take to review and make an informed judgement. Sometimes less is more ;)”
Ryan Wills, Creative Partner & Founder at Taxi Studio | Independent Agency of the Year

Enter Annual 2021!


Award-winning work is often characterised by fresh approaches and groundbreaking ideas. Especially after a year like 2020, when a plethora of new challenges came into play, our judges will want to see works that create culture, with originality of approach and great inventiveness. Is your idea communicated simply enough? Are you in tune with the times, are you a visionary? Do you have tangible results to prove how innovative your approach was?

Here are some more quotes to get you started and inspired with your entries:

“I'd love to see work based in the creativity of culture. Rather than simple brand experiential, I'm intrigued by work that literally creates culture, as opposed to just mirroring it. The past 18 months have been a cultural reset for all of us, so the renaissance of experiential coupled with the acceleration of digital has opened opportunities that never before existed. It will be really interesting to see how these new opportunities have been leveraged to create new cultural norms.”
David Mardon, Executive Creative Director at Traffik | Experiential

"I am looking for unique and unexpected insights. I would invite the entrants to try and explain their idea in one sentence and introduce the reason (why?) behind the idea."
Nikola Zinic, Chief Creative Officer at Bruketa&Zinic&Grey | Graphic

“The publishing world is continuing to evolve at rapid speed. I am excited to see how the entrants have innovated to reach audiences in new and smart ways. I expect to not only see brilliant creative, but also tangible results that map against clear KPIs.”
Oliver Woodley, SVP & Head of Commercial at VICE Media | Publishing

“In a world where everyone is competing for our attention, what branded content was designed in order to trigger my attention and interest instead of interrupting me will be a key factor on the way I look at the work that is coming. The work that is genuinely surprising, interesting and makes me stop and look at it. What's the magic used to capture audience attention?”
Americo De Campos Silva, Global Head of Integrated Brand & Communications at Shell | Branded Content

“I am excited to be judging the highly prestigious Creativepool Effectiveness category this year. I’m really looking forward to seeing how marketers have been agile and creative in driving growth in these difficult times. As 2020 obliged all of us to become nimbler and more innovative, I look forward to seeing a wealth of fresh approaches and having the honour to select from among the best in the industry.”
Matteo Resta, Head of Applied Data at OMD Singapore | Effectiveness

“I'm always looking for innovative creative solutions that generate results. We are problem solvers at heart and storytellers to boot. Craft is always an important part of the equation as well. How you execute an idea is a super important part of the process.”
Samira Ansari, Executive Creative Director at FCB | Advertising: Digital

“I’m looking for a mix of inventiveness and relevance. Ideas that go beyond a piece of paper, capable of filling the recipient’s hands and minds with a good story, a relevant experience, a meaningful message. Here’s a tip: Walk me through your train of thought. What was your objective, your idea and your execution?”
Catalina Cadena, Chief Strategy Officer at McCann Lisbon | Direct Mail

“I am looking for people who are in tune with the times and who can provide solutions to society's problems. I am looking for visionaries who have the power of the sign and the power of visualisation. I am looking for a new wave of graphic designers, artists, who bring optimism. I am looking for colours, frankness, readability. I am looking for artists who have a sense of truth. Their truths must be displayed in their proposals. I am looking for sensitive people who respect the world and its inhabitants. I am looking for those who want to change the world. This is an opportunity to show their vision. Play with the child that they are in order to overcome their limitations...
I implore the masters of limitation to go beyond themselves. I propose to them to discover in themselves the artists that they do not suspect. They are many and one. Discover yourself with your signs.”
Christophe Nutoni, Founder & Creative Director at Instinct Créatif communication | Publishing

Enter Annual 2021!

Stories & Emotional Impact

Everybody loves a good story, and our esteemed judges are no different. They will be looking for the emotional impact of your projects on the audience and the world, with meaningful, enduring value and human-centred insights. And at the heart of it all – simplicity. A simple story, not just creativity, something to learn and to remember. How did you harness the power of storytelling in your entry? How did you make an impact on your audience, and how did you help your clients connect with them?

Some more quotes to get you inspired:

“I will be looking for inventive campaigns that use creativity to tackle the challenging topic of Covid-19 head on. Insight-driven ideas and the ability to wrap them back to the brand in an authentic way. Agility and quick/dirty ideas that deliver maximum emotional impact.”
Denny Tu, Global Chief Marketing Officer at IMAX | Covid-19

“What is going to pique my attention and interest? First, a great human-centred insight... a true and actionable insight, not just a data-point observation. Taking the insight and moving to address it (solve, enhance, provide, connect etc). Making something that creates meaningful, enduring value for many, not just something affording an award submission entry.
Second is simplicity. Beautiful, sincere simplicity in the way the pitch is made. We live in a complex world. Making things simple is an art.”
Julian Ireland, Executive Strategy Director at Havas Media Group | Wave

“I'm looking for something that is joyous to use and carries purpose. It should be clear what the application or service is supposed to let me achieve, what problem it is designed to solve and for who. The visual experience needs to be high quality, appropriate, and relevant for the audience and the message without getting in the way of the content, unless of course, it is the content. How do we want to judge applications? I'd say give us a login and let us experience a live or stage version of your application first-hand.”
Ryan Wylie, Head of Experience Design, XD & Creative Director at VMLY&R | Application

“I am very honored to be part of the Covid19 jury for the Creativepool awards. This category is somewhat challenging. On one hand, I hope that the pandemic will end as soon as possible in all parts of the world, making this a one-year in a life category. On the other hand I hope it will teach us a lot, and highlight the most sincere initiatives from brands, institutions and NGOs during this troubled time.
We cannot just be satisfied with the creativity of each project, but must be more attentive than ever to their effectiveness and the merits of their approach.”
Joseph Dubruque, Associate Creative Director at McCann Worldgroup | Covid-19

Enter Annual 2021!


The advertising industry isn’t just about creativity – it is also about results and impact. Our judges will look for the way you leveraged a medium to obtain results, fresh approaches to make a meaningful impact and deliver effectiveness to the client. How does your work create value? What impact did it have on all the stakeholders involved, from team members to clients and partners?

Here are some more quotes from our judges to get you started:

“As part of the Digital jury panel, I will be focused on how the strategic application of data both in terms of insights and execution are used to deliver a digital campaign that is both personally relevant and impactful. How is data used to drive insights and expression? Is there a real-time optimisation component? Was AI or ML used to deliver this execution? Was this an out of the box innovative application of data and the digital medium? Overall, how well does this campaign leverage the digital medium in terms of data availability and application, real-time user relevance, and digital interactivity?”
Carol Reed, EVP, Head of Data & Product Marketing at WPP | Digital

“I’m looking for a combination of four things. First, I want to see work that surprises me. Second, work that works, and by that I mean work that sells.a product, service or brand effectively. Third, work that's beautifully crafted. And fourth, work that's run at a decent scale and isn't just award fodder.”
Rik Haslam, Executive Creative Partner at Brandpie | Branding

“I would be looking for 3 key elements which are difficult to balance: creativity (i.e. originality of the idea and innovative implementation), effectiveness (results achieved vs brief) and budget control (Cost vs impact achieved as throwing money at it is a easy way to get results). In terms of presenting the work, it should be compelling and engaging with relevant visual aids and proof of impact and effectiveness.”
Nuno Pena, Marketing Director UK&I at AkzoNobel (Dulux Paints) | PR Agency of the Year

“What I'll be looking for in the work is type that expresses an idea or intrinsic value related to the brand or organisation using the type. Why is this type absolutely perfect for this purpose? I love to see the origins or seeds of the idea - what was the inspiration and insight that kicked off this beautiful journey?”
Anthony Ford, Design Director at Superunion | Typography

“In the social category, I'm looking for stories that people want to hear AND tell. Content that people want to share and amplify. Campaigns that get people talking; that are remembered for longer than just a few minutes. If your social campaign gets people to take action (i.e. DO something), that's great! But not every great idea is about affecting social change - it could just be about a beautiful story; something that makes people laugh, or cry, or just think and reflect. The use of clever tech is always welcome, if it adds meaning to the big idea. 
In terms of presentation, a good case study video is always a treat. But slides in Keynote or PowerPoint also work. As long as the insight is clear, the idea is strong, and the execution(s) pull it all together.”
Jeanette Grove, Creative Director: Content & Social at Grey Africa | Social

“ I'm going to be looking at how agencies effectively supported their teams to deliver stand-out work for clients, pushed their clients to be brave and delivered impact beyond purely media coverage. My advice to entrants would be to keep your entries snappy and I would love to hear the voices of people at every level in the agency, not just directors.”
Ellie Tuck, Creative Director at FleishmanHillard | PR Agency of the Year

“I think that the most important thing that the submission has to show is how it creates value. There are many ways to do it, so it is very important to let us know very clearly what they did and the positive results that their work had.
In the case of my category, I’ll will be glad to see real results and how they measure them. It could be some real work, a pitch participation, a real project with some KPI, some prize or the impact the company.
On the other hand it is important to know the impact the nominees have on the people who work with them. Clients, partners or teammates. Last but not least, I will be looking for something different. Some curious aspect, a different hobby or a hidden talent.”
Agustín Porris, Innovation & Interactive Director at VMLY&R Buenos Aires | Emerging Talent of the Year

Enter Annual 2021!

Quality of Craft

But above all, The Annual is a creative industry award. Get creative. Our judges will be looking for the most stellar and outstanding examples of creativity, with a keen eye on the quality of craft. Whether it is an example of brilliant writing in a Copywriting project or a mesmerising Production submission, your entry should tell a story about the execution as well. Which ideas have overcome new challenges creatively? Was your concept strong enough? Is it an arresting execution, one that stops feeds from scrolling?

Here are some last quotes from our esteemed judges to get you started and inspired for the perfect Annual 2021 submission:

“I started my career as an intern copywriter, and I still remember sitting in my first tiny cubicle, poring through old One Show and D&AD annuals and reading the brilliant headlines and long copy ads. I was so inspired by all that great writing. And I still am. That’s why I’m so thrilled to be on the copywriting jury this year.
This has obviously been a very challenging year, and that has created endless production challenges. However, one of the ways brands could really stand out this year was through brilliant writing. In a year where budgets were slashed and shoots had to be rethought or postponed, copywriting has had to come to the fore. Whether that’s a touching voiceover over user-generated iPhone footage, or a hilarious radio script, the writers really had to step up their game this year, and I can’t wait to get stuck in and read every word. It will be just like I’m back in that tiny cubicle all those years ago.”
Cory Eisentraut, Creative Partner at BBD Perfect Storm | Copywriting

“Everyday brands strive to capture people's attention and be part of pop culture. And although they are competing with other brands, they are also competing with video games, movies, music, podcasts, on-demand platforms, etc. For me, advertising is part of the Entertainment Industry, and creating game-changing, well-crafted, and unskippable content is essential to stand out from the crowd.“
- Santiago Cuesta, Chief Creative Officer at VMLY&R | Branded Content

“New insights on existing products. Fresh way to execute an idea. Clever way to use a medium. Impactful message. Pretty much the same things we all look for regardless of the category. But what would be interesting to see is if people being holed up indoors for months actually had an effect on how OOH will be used from hereon. Or did it have any effect at all?”
Jake Tesoro, Chief Creative Officer at FCB Manila | OOH

“Photography is like film: it's visual storytelling instead of storytelling with words. It is important for me that I feel and understand what the image wants to tell me, what it brings across.
The picture has to evoke a feeling. One that corresponds with the values of a brand, that translates the message in the right visual tonality. Of course in our industry, we can use also text and graphic elements or design to enhance this. But as we are talking here about the category Photography, I like to judge the work as such: pure photography.
Show me the best pictures! Without (ugly) logos or lay-outers and typographers who try to make your work 'more outstanding'! ... :-)”
Werner Van Reck, Executive Creative Director at Havas Brussels | Photography

“I will be looking for production value in each film. I will be judging based on the locations, the casting, the narrative told to the colour correction and the transitions used.”
Lauren O’Driscoll, Integrated Producer at Grey | Production

“I’m super excited to see all the entries this year. Animation is a wonderfully diverse and eclectic melting pot for ideas, styles and techniques. There’s always something new around the corner. With that in mind, I’ll be on the look-out for anything that grabs me with a strong, unique concept and displays a high-level of craft and skill.”
Stephen Middleton, Creative Director at Art&Graft | Animation

“I'll be looking for the kinda stuff that when it turns up my feed, it makes me want to turn my phone to my wife, to make her stop what she's doing and show her.
Something that I can't wait to share.”
Jordan Dale, Associate Creative Director at Above+Beyond | Social Good

“Within this category I will be looking for simple ideas that are carefully and intelligently executed or demonstrate considered typography. I will be looking at experimentation in new and emerging trends or innovation. I am also interested in design that makes a difference, that has purpose and resonates; creative executions that are thought provoking, emotive or that simply create great narratives.”
Ellie Turner, Head of Brand Design at FT Creative, Financial Times | Typography

Annual 2021 is accepting standard submissions until 27th May. Enter now to grab your slice of creative immortality!

Enter Now!


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