8 Steps to Clio-Winning Work, Straight From the Experts

This story originally appeared on Campaign Brief Australia

Every year, more and more imaginative advertising emerges from Australia and New Zealand, gaining accolades and solidifying the region's place as a global creative hub. But what defines this inspiring work and sets it apart from the rest of the industry? Where do leading creatives turn for inspiration?

Ahead of the 2017 Clio Awards, past Clio jurors and winners from the region offer insider perspectives on how standout creative comes together and what it takes to impress the jurors—maybe even inspire a little envy.

1. Remember the four Is

That's inspirational, innovative, impact and iconic, according to James Wright, CEO Red Agency and COO Havas Group Australia. The 2016 Clio Awards juror explains: "Is it inspirational--does it make me wish I did it? Is it innovative, bringing to life an interesting insight in an innovative way? Did it deliver genuine impact in terms of outcomes, not just outputs?  Will it endure and be iconic, something we look back on as best-in-class for that medium?" 

2. Bring simplicity and solutions 

Succinctly put, the campaigns that gain attention--and measurable impact--are "brilliantly creative ideas that solve genuine problems, at a meaningful scale," says Anna Karena, executive creative director of Wunderman. It's a strategy that's organic rather than forced. "The winning campaigns had an incredible sense of believability. Nothing was out of place or overlooked. The most striking (in my mind) are the effects that do not jump up and down screaming 'Hey look at me,' but rather embed themselves into the very core of the idea," adds Justin Bromley, VFX supervisor at Fin. Wright summarizes: "Great work is nearly always grounded in a simple insight, and as the saying goes, 'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication'." 

3. Think beyond visuals  

Striking imagery can speak volumes, but some of the best campaigns also engage the ears. "I've always believed that the sound component of any commercial is half of the weight of that commercial and should not be dismissed as an afterthought. It has the potential to be more important and more memorable than the visuals, and even the messaging in some instances," notes Jennifer Taunton, music supervisor at Level Two.  

4. Let envy be a great motivator 

Kicking yourself for not thinking of that winning concept? Use that to fuel your next project. Inspiration often comes from "ideas that make you so jealous you want to kill yourself, or the people who did them," jokes Ben Coulson, chief creative officer at Clemenger BBDO, Sydney. "Burning jealousy has a nice motivational upside." Simon Vicars, creative group head at Colenso BBDO, agrees that winners often include "work that makes them envy the people who came up with it, and not envy the people who had to pull it off. If you can make a jury ask 'How did they come up with that?', as well as 'How did they sell it and how the hell did they make it?!' I think you'll be rewarded."

5. Adopt a 'why not?' attitude 

"By nature of our geographical remoteness from the world's main throng, our creative is culturally less influenced by what I would call 'mass marketing templates.' Australian culture by nature is larrikin, laid back and sometimes a little bit naughty, and you have a formula for some stand-out creative freshness in the work we generate," Karena says. Taunton calls the locally conceived ideas "edgy, clever and effective." That allows creatives to take an element of risk in the innovative work produced. Wright adds: "In Australia the attitude is always 'why not'. Let's try and give something a go, push boundaries and bring fun into the creative. It is that no fear of failure philosophy." 

6. Take risks and stay on your toes 

"I would love to see more brands support agencies, studios, producers, directors and composers to push innovative ideas further, support new ideas that are unexpected, surprising, brave, thoughtful, thought-provoking," Taunton notes. Especially in Australia and New Zealand, accountability fuels some of the most dynamic ideas. "It's a small market and it's very hard to fly under the radar so everyone is on their toes creatively. If you do a mediocre job, everyone will know about it," states Tim Bullock, director/founder of Scoundrel.  

7. Advance the global benchmark

The best campaigns also showcase what is possible both within the industry and the world at large, creatively, strategically and technologically. "They have an immensely important role as recorders of our incremental and sometimes revolutionary, technological progress. Last year it was VR, this year it is AI. Without award shows, who would see the leaps and bounds being made?" Karena notes. Each year, programs such as the Clio Awards help to document that extraordinary progress. "You're being exposed to the global benchmark for direction and cinematography and reminded with viewing most of the work that you need to keep setting your bar higher to stay relevant. I find myself wondering, 'Who did that?' and digging into their reels to see what else they've been up to," Bullock notes. 

8. Participate in the award shows that continue this vital conversation

"Award shows are the defenders of creativity, and have a vital role to play in protecting us from a descent into marketing that's purely technological, purely transactional - particularly today," Karena shares. For both entrants and jurors, the collaboration and sense of community awards shows foster help to push the envelope forward. "Spending time soaking up the best work from around the world is enlightening and always serves as a reminder for why we do what we do... Often we can get lost in our day to day, over complicating things, so to take a step back and get some head space with great work helps me strip back creative tasks, like a reset and come back with something better," Wright says. As Bullock summarizes: "You can't help but be inspired when judging Clios."

Former Clio Award jurors share the campaigns — prior Clio winners and this year's talked-about concepts from around the world — that have caught their attention.

Transport Accident Commission 'Graham' (Clemenger BBDO, Melbourne) 

"For a message [seat-belt awareness] that has been reiterated in so many ways over the years, grotesque Graham (the humanoid creature built to demonstrate how humans would physically need to look to survive a crash without a seat belt) re-opened an important conversation; one that led naturally to people focusing in on the specific, physiological ways that seat belts save lives. It was both engaging and educational."--Anna Karena, Wunderman

Burger King 'Flame grilled since 1954 (David, Miami)

"Wow, that took some plumbs. Ten on the brave-o-meter." --Ben Coulson, Clemenger BBDO

SSE 'Maya' (The Mill)

"You do not doubt, or question, the CGI Orangutan. Most viewers are completely unaware of the months and months (almost a year) of teamwork that went into making that character come to life. It needs 'life,' as the story would collapse at the first hint of 'fake CGI'--especially so in the case of the SSE commercial, where we are led on a journey and need to connect, to this animal at an emotional level. I think The Mill made something very, very difficult look easy, and that to me is a sign of great work." --Justin Bromley, Fin 

Lockheed Martin 'The field trip to Mars' (McCann New York)

"[The 2016 Clio Grand winner] is essentially a very corporate aerospace and defense manufacturer taking a totally different approach to what they do through inspiring school children through a groundbreaking virtual reality project. It was bloody excellent and really brought to life their mission of 'we never forget what we are working for.'"--James Wright, Havas Group Australia 

John Lewis 'Buster the boxer' (adam&eveDDB, London) 

"The brilliant craft of Dougal Wilson mixed with culture-shifting ideas care of adam&eveDDB has been an awe-inspiring combination. It's alchemy! I always know an ad is exceptional when my non-advertising film snob friends share it on social media. And that is the key to success of those spots: They entertain and reward on so many layers that transcend conventional advertising."--Tim Bullock, Scoundrel

Bonds 'The Boys' (Clemenger BBDO Melbourne) 

"Australians are eternally and naturally up for creating messages like [this 2016 Clio Gold winner] and there's no stuffiness in our culture to stop people being receptive to them." --Anna Karena, Wunderman

Donate Life 'The world's biggest asshole' (The Martin Agency)

"Hilarious, cinematic filmmaking from Speck and Gordon combined with a killer idea from The Martin Agency." --Tim Bullock, Scoundrel

Entries for the 2017 Clio Awards are now open. The second deadline for submissions is May 26. For more information, please call 212.683.4300 or visit Clios.com