More and more brands are creating Lions of their own

Like a lot of companies, McDonald’s will send a
contingent to Cannes next week for the largest advertising awards
show on the planet. But when it comes to judging marketing that
actually sells hamburgers, its executives in many ways put greater
stock in a competition that wrapped more than a month ago at a
banquet hall in Chicago’s
Art Institute.

That is where McDonald’s conducted its first annual
“Feel-Good Marketing Awards” ceremony, an internal program
meant to incentivize and recognize marketing that works. With
categories like “Best Idea Shamelessly Stolen”­—which honors
work successfully shifted from one McDonald’s international
market to another—the program has a practical bent that is
missing at Cannes.

The internal award winners have to show “some basic business
results. It can’t be completely ineffective or completely
trivial, which a lot of the Cannes work is in our view,” says
Colin Mitchell, McDonald’s global brand VP.  The creativity
often celebrated in France involves “stunts and apps that go
nowhere, that play to the Cannes industry insiders rather than real
people,” Mitchell says, noting that the burger behemoth places an
emphasis on stuff that works at scale. 

McDonald’s is not alone. Several major advertisers are putting
more energy and resources into internal awards, including
Anheuser-Busch InBev and Mondelez. While similar programs have been
around for year—Procter & Gamble has run one for
decades—the internal initiatives are taking on greater relevance
of late as marketers face more pressure to boost return on
investment by leaning into what works and ditching what does not.
And when it comes to fueling best practices, a little recognition
can go a long way. 

Internal vs. external
Internal marketing awards are a “great way to reinforce messages
that upper management thinks are important: That small brands are
also valued, that not every great marketing program is a TV ad,
that great marketing comes in all shapes and sizes and that
creativity doesn’t require a multimillion-dollar budget,” says
Deb Giampoli, a marketing consultant and former global director of
agency relations at Mondelez, where she created and oversaw the
food company’s Marketing Excellence Awards program. 

Internal programs can and should coexist with external awards,
says Giampoli, adding that it’s “great to get external/industry
recognition.” That said, she notes that “nothing beats being
recognized within your own organization by those who can make a
difference in your success on your home turf.”

This year, Mondelez gave out awards across nine categories,
including “Best Small Budget Campaign” for a Cadbury effort in
Malaysia in which the brand partnered with a local artist.
Mondelez’ awards program is “bigger than ever in terms of
internal participation and engagement,” says Jon Halvorson, the
company’s VP of global media, who now oversees the effort. This
year, 250 entries were submitted, up 30 percent from last year.
“We use it as an opportunity to identify our best work [and]
benchmark it,” Halvorson says.

Entries and judging 
Of course, when you are competing with yourself, it’s hard to see
how you stack up against the competition. That is why several
marketers interviewed by Ad Age say they still see value in Cannes
and other external programs. McDonald’s closely monitors how it
does annually at Cannes as well as at the Effie Awards, where the
fast-feeder recently placed first for brand effectiveness. The
company also keeps an eye on Interbrand’s annual best global
brands rankings, where it placed 10th last year. The three programs
are “important to use because they provide an external point of
view,” Mitchell says.

Some internal programs try to get an external perspective by
using outside judges alongside in-house people. (McDonald’s
called on Jeff Goodby, a partner at Goodby Silverstein &
Partners, and Ann-Christine Diaz, Ad Age’s Creativity
The programs are often modeled after Cannes, involving several
rounds of judging and formal entry guidelines. 

There are even trophies: McDonald’s hardware design takes
inspiration from its Golden Arches. Anhesuer-Busch InBev, which
calls its program Creative X (for excellence), gives out a trophy
with a ‘C’ and ‘X’ that is meant to resemble a beer tap.
The brewer culminated last year’s program with a party at a venue
in Harlem that featured a performance by Montell Jordan, best known
for “This Is How We Do It,” which is a rallying cry adopted by
AB Chief Marketing Officer Marcel Marcondes. 

The brewer showcases the winning work all year long in a gallery
at its Manhattan office, “just like Cannes Lions does at the
Palais,” says Jodi Harris, the brewer’s VP of marketing culture
and learning, referring to the main Cannes venue. 

AB’s categories include the “Creative Behavior Award,”
which is “open to anyone in the marketing department who …
knocked down barriers to creativity,” says Harris, who oversees
the program. There is also a “Social Impact” category, which
last year went to Budweiser’s “Stand by You” Super Bowl
campaign that touted the brewer’s philanthropic water giveaway
program. AB InBev also gives out a best-in-class award modeled
after the Cannes Grand Prix. Bud Light’s “Dilly Dilly”
campaign from Wieden & Kennedy won last year. 

Defining the criteria
Procter & Gamble has been running some version of an internal
awards program since the 1980s, when they were called the “Copy
Awards.” The current version, overseen by Chief Brand Officer
Marc Pritchard, is called “Best of Brand.” 

P&G employees do not have to enter, and P&G does not use
a jury. Instead, the company takes a
data-driven approach, assembling the list of winners based on how
brands score on five key business metrics: growing the category,
growing market share, household penetration, and sales and

“We try to be as simple as we can be. We literally run
reports, because we have the data,” says P&G spokeswoman
Andrea Schoff. Winning teams get a trophy, and their work is
recognized at an annual awards show and at other company events
like Pritchard’s quarterly “Brand Power Hour” internal
webcasts, where they are often used as case studies. 

While the criteria is more business-oriented than Cannes
judging, Schoff points out that the internal award winners often do
well in the south of France, citing work such as the “Like a
Girl” campaign for Always that won a 2015 Grand Prix. The company
gave out seven Best of Brand awards last year, including for a
Charmin campaign in Canada that used the brand’s bear
spokescritters to reassert its premium positioning. Also honored
was work for Pampers in India that included media outreach,
doctor-led seminars and product demos that P&G said led to the
brand’s first profitable year in the market.

The top award is named for Robert V. Goldstein, a former P&G
advertising VP who died in a rafting accident in 1987. Last year
the Goldstein award—which goes to brands that sustain three years
of business success across multiple markets—went to skincare
brand SK-II, whose work included the “Bare Skin Project,” which
challenged the notion that women must wear makeup to feel

Most company-run programs incorporate agency recognition as part
of the broader brand team when giving out awards. In its internal
announcement listing its 2019 winners, McDonald’s credits the
agency involved in each one. The marketer’s top prize, which it
calls the Grand Prix, went to an out-of-home campaign by Canadian
creative agency Cossette called “Follow the Arches,” which used
McDonald’s Golden Arches logo as a design element for directional
signage for its restaurants.

AB InBev gives out a special “Agency of the Year” award.
Last year’s winner was Weber Shandwick’s dedicated AB InBev PR
agency called 3PM. The shop was behind Bud Light’s wildly
successful “Victory Fridges” campaign that involved stocking
the brew in refrigerators at Cleveland bars that remained locked
until the city’s long-suffering NFL team, the Browns, got their
first win of the season.

Grabbing the gold
For agencies, being recognized at a private client awards ceremony
might not come with the same glory, external attention and
rosé-drenched partying of a Cannes win. But in an age of fleeting
agency loyalties marked by a rise of project work, it might be more

Individual creative executives “would prefer to win an award
in Cannes because it will increase their stature,” says Avi Dan,
CEO of agency search consultancy Avidan Strategies. But agency
management execs “would always prefer to win a client award,
because that would mean the relationship is very strong.”

AB InBev allowed 3PM to publicize its win, which it did with
posts on Twitter and LinkedIn. The shop has also touted the
recognition when talking to prospective clients and creative hires.
It’s a big recruitment selling point, says 3PM Account Lead
Brian Williams. “People in agencies and beyond want to know that
they are going to come in and work on things that matter and things
that are recognized by the client,” he says.  

Source: FS – Advertising Blogs !
More and more brands are creating Lions of their own