How to Make Award Winning Creative Content - Part 1

Submitting your content and campaigns for awards considerations seems like an obvious win. Being able to showcase your brand as award-winning is a useful bit of prestige when attracting new business (and reassuring existing clients that they’ve made a good choice). It’s also a nice way to show gratitude for the hard working team members who made the campaign possible in the first place.

However, the obvious downside is you might not win. Awards entries have associated costs and time required. Losing out to your competitors can be demoralising. And what of nominations and commendations? Sure, that puts you in the top two or three agencies, but what’s to stop a potential client just skipping straight ahead to the winner.

In short, entering awards should be a considered tactic of your agency’s marketing strategy, but work hard on optimising your win rate.

The difficult question is what makes award-winning content exactly that - worthy of winning?

Dissecting the winning elements of creative content

Last month we won two Drum Search Awards (shameless self-promotion achieved!)

  • Best Financial Services Campaign - SEO
  • Best Use of PR - SEO

So taking the content entered both of these awards, we dug down into the elements that made the campaigns succesful, both in terms of results and innovation over our competitors (two key pieces of evidence that judges at the Drum award judges look for):

So without further ado: Best Use of PR - SEO (for Photoworld)

Photoworld - Making the Intangible, Tangible

Photoworld is a photo printing service, their products include photo books, canvas prints and personalized gifts.

Our goal for the campaign

  • Build high authority links to
  • Drive social engagement  
  • Generate brand mentions/awareness

The results

  • Coverage from 862 Linking root domains (44 have a domain authority of 85+)
  • 157% increase of YOY traffic
  • Over 1 million visitor sessions on
  • 13,800+ Facebook engagements
  • 6,000+ Twitter shares
  • One piece (with a website/brand mention) featured in a Buzzfeed video and had 600k views.

How we achieved it

We created three interactive infographics. These pieces reflected the Photoworld brand values of being relatable, trustworthy and fun, as well as key brand messaging of ‘making the intangible, tangible’ (a concept based on their tagline, ‘We print memories’).

But let’s dissect this a little further, exactly why were journalists and publishers interested in this content? What made these pieces worthy of coverage?

Before deciding on an idea we go through rigorous internal checks. We only proceed with an idea if we are happy with the content, execution and hook. Let’s see how nailing these three pillars led to success.

Piece 1: If You Printed All The Photos Uploaded To Instagram In A Year

What is it?

Through a scrolling animation we visualised the amount of photos uploaded to Instagram each year, showing how high they would reach if they were actually printed out.


Journalists love a story about social media, some of our earliest creative pieces successfully focussed on social media. Instagram was the perfect candidate for Photoworld and the story – the sheer amount of photos uploaded to instagram every second, every minute, every hour, every year.


In the early stages of the project, we considered visualising surface area with printed photos, or volume (stacks of photos next to each other). However, the results felt less than astounding, and we had to ensure our execution had impact:

We finally settled on height, using iconic landmarks to make it more concrete, thus helping the audience relate to the large figures. Drawing on the success of ‘Ipod Visualized As Vinyl’ - the piece we made for ConcertHotels a few months prior - we incorporated a scrolling animation that took users higher and higher along the stack of printed Instagram photos eventually revealing the astounding height of the stack. This animation gave us the wow factor that sealed the execution.

This piece tied in with the broader strategy of “Making the Intangible, Tangible”, and “if you were to print the photos” hook cemented the connection to Photoworld’s brand.

We knew that journalists are reluctant to feature a piece of branded content that is at odds with the brand’s values and if you can’t easily explain why your client has produced a certain piece of work, you’ll have a difficult time pitching it to journalists. If our story was simply “‘21,900,000,000 photos are uploaded to Instagram each year”, the piece wouldn’t have succeeded. It’s how we made that number concrete coupled with a novel visual execution that ensured the success of this piece.


Height made the story tangible, and publishers recognised that:

‘Photo company Photoworld wanted to put that ridiculously huge figure in perspective.’ Mashable.

Piece Two: How Big is Snapchat?

What is it?

Using a scrolling animation to tell the story, we have used emoji to represent each snap taken per second on Snapchat.


One surprising data point: Snapchat, despite being a relatively new social media platform, has the highest number of images shared than any other social media platform. We deliberately kept our idea simple here, remember, if you can’t explain your idea to a friend in the pub, the odds are journalists won't understand it or cover it either.


This design certainly focusses on the “wow”, it is a total bombardment of movement and colour, it’s both hypnotic and irritating at the same time. In both this piece and the previous piece the user clicks in just one spot to be guided through the story. The reward (seeing loads of flashing emoji in this case) greatly outweighs the effort the user has to invest. The topic allows us to have fun and to consequently stand out from other data-driven content, there was no need for it to be too dry.  


Snapchat users share nearly 9,000 images a second. Not only is that an unbelievably high number, it’s also the highest among other social media platforms, dwarfing Facebook and Instagram. This was, ultimately, the reason for journalists to write about this piece. They didn’t write about lots of flashing emojis, or the execution itself. They wrote about Snapchat being the biggest image sharing app.

Try to make your content timely. At the point this piece launched, Snapchat was already being mentioned widely in the news, this meant we had created a resource that was handy for journalists to embed.

Piece Three: The Food Capitals of Instagram

What is it?

This piece took a different approach to making the digital world tangible, this time with a literal map. We visualised the popularity of various food hashtags on Instagram around the world.


We researched food that often gets photographed and uploaded to Instagram and selected 18 popular foods. We then used the Instagram's API to scrape locations of photos posted on Instagram under food hashtags. Locations with the highest share of photos under a given hashtag were declared ‘Instagram capitals’ of that food, e.g. New York City is the capital for #bacon, London for #burgers, etc.


The design immediately screams Instagram; the food, photo filters and square cropping, make the social channel in discussion apparent at first glance. That said, it’s also a data visualisation with bubbles corresponding to locations of photos and their size - the amount of photos under a given tag in that location. In addition to the core visuals, we have also added a top 5 list, saving the user the trouble of working out what the food capitals are. Users could also click through to different foods, seeing the map change to reveal the next set of Instagram capitals  of curry, poutine, sushi, etc.


This piece tapped into a few major narratives: the culture of Instagramming your food, social media and its pervasive nature, and cultural differences between different countries manifested through food. The latter was the core reason why the piece resonated with people across the world. It gave people the opportunity to see what their city was a capital of, and how popular the food from their home country was across the planet.

The story was covered with a local angle by publications from a range of locations in Germany, Thailand, Singapore, and of course, London, NYC and Los Angeles. For many, the piece served as a validation of their local pride and we were happy to give people the reason to say ‘Hell yes London tops the Burger table!’.


Find a justifiable connection to the brand

Journalists will find it hard to place content that is at odds with a brand’s values, and if stumbling over a connection means you have no strategy.

Keep your idea simple!

If you can’t explain it to a mate in the pub, a journalist won’t cover it.

Choose the right execution

Showcase your data in the best possible way.

Make it concrete

Use intuitive, tangible comparisons to put large numbers in perspective.

Build stories, not executions

Journalists write about stories not visuals. Even the most beautiful executions don’t get written about if there’s no story to back them up.

Find a timely hook

Look out for what’s current in the news or the industry you’re targeting and see how your content can tie into that.

Wrapping up

As you can see, there are definable elements that have made our content successful. There’s obviously a lot of trial and error, but over time it has allowed us to use these elements to build new content and then sense check these ideas.

Has your agency had success with awards? What’s your (not so) secret for success? I’d really love to hear your feedback in the comments below or on Twitter.

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