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What our judges are looking for

We are well into Awards season and judging week is next, but what do our judges look for and what makes an entry stand out to them? We have asked members of the Customer Data Council and Value of Data Committee who are judging at this year’s awards exactly that, we also wanted to know what makes them want to judge and what category they are judging this year.

Sue MacLure, Co-Chair Customer Data Council, Director of Data, CACI

This year I’ll be judging the Data Storytelling category within the DMA Awards, and I’m really looking forward to it.

An ongoing challenge for ensuring the good application of data insight is marrying those predominantly left-brain thinkers (logical, analytical) with their right-brained counterparts (creative, intuitive). It’s one thing to find out some mathematical truth, a perfect correlation, or indeed a complete lack of relationship between two facts, but quite another to translate that so that a business counterpart can make a decision, or act. This is particularly true when it comes to marketing applications where we want to decide what the best way to communicate with human beings is, and we are the most fickle of creatures.

This is data storytelling, and all good stories need a plot (look at us selling products to our customers), a setting (UK market, CoL crisis, past business performance), characters (the marketers, the purse-string holders, the business owners, the customers), points of view (how we might interpret what the data is saying), and conflict (cost vs benefit, risk vs reward). We are telling these stories at work every day – good data analytics helps us, but storytelling skills take us that step further.

So, for our three core pillars, I’ll be looking for…

  • Strategy: Are you crystal clear about what it is that you are trying to influence with your story, what does the receiver do, or believe, differently as a result of hearing it

  • Creativity: Are you giving the information in a way that is easy to understand, or just throwing a lot of facts out there and hoping they’ll work it out, it’s their fault if they don’t understand the numbers

  • Results: Did it drive demonstrably different behaviours or commercial value?

Sanjeevan Bala, Value of Data Committee Member, Group Chief Data & AI Officer, ITV

I judge as I simply love reading and hearing about developments across the industry and am always in awe at the scale of aspiration and achievement. Put simply the winners are the ones that inspire a generation of Marketers and Data professionals to Go Further and challenge mediocrity.

I'm delighted to be judging the AI category as it feels like Generative has shot AI to the front of most agendas. On the one hand a hugely transformative opportunity on the other questions relating to risks, it's an incredibly exciting time to be at the intersection of machine intelligence with human creativity.

The DMA sets the standard for the industry, so my panel of Judges look for three key things when judging an entry:
  • Strategy: What was the initial intention, what did you set out to achieve and critically, how did you navigate a path to execution? We're keen on entries that demonstrate diverse minds and skills coming together to form the strategy.

  • Creativity: No matter the medium, we're looking for those explosive kernels of ideas that simply lodge themselves into the minds of consumers and in doing so create a lasting and vivid memory and, in doing so, evoke a deep emotional response.

  • Results: How did this really shift the dial? Be warned, marginal gains are taken as a given and very much part of Business As Usual, we're looking for standout results that have had a material and lasting impact.

Carolyn Bondi, Co-Chair Customer Data Council, Founder, The Thread Team

Judging the DMA Awards is an immensely rewarding experience and having the privilege of being on the panel to judge the Data & Insights category is a highlight for me personally. It offers a front-row seat to industry trends and innovations while providing valuable insights into the latest data tools, methodologies and their impact on the customer experience. A standout entry shines through clear objectives, well-structured analysis, actionable insights and a creative approach that delivers tangible results. We'll be particularly excited to see the brands that skillfully translate complex data into a deeper understanding of their customer's narrative, identify real-world applications and navigate the ethical considerations crucial in today's data-driven landscape.

Hannah Gardner-Javid, Deputy Chair Customer Data Council, CRM & Loyalty Manager, Wunderman Thompson Commerce & Technology

I'm excited to be a judge in the Retail & e-commerce category for this year's DMA awards as I think it's an honour to be asked to provide my perspective and opinions on some of the best work out there. However, my main drive to get involved was to be inspired, both by the entries and by the different perspectives of other great minds in the room.

The entries that will stand out to me will be the ones that both demonstrate how they met their objectives with tangible results and showcase their creativity. These are the entries that have thought outside of the box about how to execute—maybe an uncommon partnership or a well-thought-out use of channels, or those with an inspirational message delivered in a creative way. I'm looking forward to the entries that surprise and delight me as much as they will have done with their target audience.

Di Mayze, Value of Data Committee Member, Global Head of Data and AI, WPP

I’m looking forward to chairing the Data & Insight category again this year, I’ll be looking for creative and interesting use of data in the campaigns. Even better if data is part of the execution and of course, I am always looking for work which delivers great results!

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