Today’s creatives have a whole lot of explaining to do

Elaborate case study videos are the bane of a creative’s existence, but a necessary evil for entering award shows says the multi award-winning creative Andrew Woodhead.

The advertising case study has become a necessary but overbearing burden of the creative’s existence. For those unfamiliar, case studies generally involve an elaborately produced video that offers a snapshot or overview of a campaign.It is a mandatory piece for selling the idea to award shows. From Cannes to AWARD, there’s an ever-growing list of categories including integrated, PR, promo and activation, branded content, direct response and whatever category makes its debut in 2013 – innovative mobile consumer-generated promotional branded content, perhaps. But I digress.

A little over six years ago the handful of categories in existence merely demanded an A2 board with photographic evidence the campaign did in fact run, accompanied by a poignant description. The most time-consuming part of this process was deliberation over background texture – should it be white or off white?

Today, it’s a completely different and drawn-out story. Nearly every campaign entered into an award show requires a well thought out, well rounded explanation in the guise of a case study video. This requires a script that usually takes up to 15 drafts, voice-over talent, a sound studio, an editor, hours of footage and an up lifting soundtrack. It has become quite the art form.

The irony is that many campaigns have more time and money invested into the case study than the original concept. Because it doesn’t matter how great an idea is, if it has a poor case study, it won’t be received well by the indsutry. Yes, we are storytellers and salespeople. But the game has changed. Once upon a time it was enough to sell products and services through creatives ideas. Nowe we must package these ideas and sell them once again – this time to the most critical audience of all, award judges.

Andrew Woodhead is creative group head at Leo Burnett Melbourne.


  1. Billy C
    22 Nov 12
    3:45 pm

  2. As an observer of the advertising industry rather than a participant it strike me that it appears to be one of the most self congratulating back slapping award driven industries in the world. Surely sales is how you measure success?

  3. TW
    22 Nov 12
    5:01 pm

  4. A thorough exaggeration.

    No agency has the time or money to spend more on a case study than the actual idea. Most of the stuff is done in-house, in the month leading up to award submission.

    It’s true a lot effort is going into these case studies, but more money than the actual idea. The scripts go through a number of revisions, normally by the writer or strategist on it after hours, or during quiet times.

    Andrew, any empirical evidence? Name 3 such case studies? Even Australia (for diplomacy).

    The case study video has definitely become a big part of award show culture, def. overtaking the A3 board from 6 years ago.

    But to paint a picture of 500 agency hours being entered into the time sheets for a case study, and a culture of emails being sent around saying, ‘stop what you’re doing and ask how you can make the case study video better’ simply isn’t true.

  5. Yes
    22 Nov 12
    7:11 pm

  6. You are right TW, no agency has the time or the money to do these things. But they still do it.

    You know what creatives are like: they’re going to craft the crap out of their work. Probably more so in this instance. Their careers depend on it.

    Case study videos are a big fat waste of time. Time that should be spent on more ads. So I’m with Andrew. Let’s go back to boards, and only boards. If it can’t be explained on a board, the idea is too complicated anyway.

  7. Sam
    22 Nov 12
    8:55 pm

  8. I’m with Billy. As an industry we’re way too obsessed with winning awards, as if winning one of the upteen categories in upteen award nights means anything to anyone.

    Let’s not forget we are in the business of helping our customers sell more product.

    The best marketing campaigns are surely those that sell the most product.

    An award for something that looks cool or innovative but doesnt generate much uplift in sales is just misguided puffery.

  9. I wonder
    22 Nov 12
    9:12 pm

  10. If it’s all too much work surely the best option is to not enter awards. Client side I could care less if my emo, skinny jean creative type is winning awards or otherwise.

    I want results. That’s all.

  11. hmmmm....
    23 Nov 12
    9:47 am

  12. entry vids are the scourge of the industry. but they keep an army of editors in work, so there’s some kind of upside.

  13. nell_schofield
    23 Nov 12
    12:42 pm

  14. it beggars belief that Leo’s permitted this to be written and published – but we appreciate the honesty

    it confirms what advertisers like me have always suspected – that we end up footing the bill for the many hours consumed by agencies in winning awards

    if advertisers continue to be influenced by awards, we can’t expect agencies not to enter them

  15. creative type
    23 Nov 12
    5:39 pm

  16. unfortunately, in most cases, creatives are measured by how many awards they have. it means pay rises. it means new jobs. it’s how ‘talent’ and ‘drive’ are measured. luck and circumstance does play a role in getting these awards too sometimes, but it’s simply a metric to judge how good creatives and creative directors are. plus it’s a little carrot that keeps creatives pushing and working crazy hours. a version of gamification if you will.

    and yes, big agencies do spend a heap of time on case study videos. it’s amazing how one video can make an idea seem bigger and community changing than it actually was.

  17. TW
    23 Nov 12
    6:17 pm

  18. Great, all I hear is more and more rhetoric. I’m lovin’ the ‘I just want results’ thinking.

    I too want results. I ask again, and put the question to everyone, not just the writer:

    * Name 3 examples of Case Studies where the effort and resources spent on the video far outweigh the actual idea/campaign itself.

    No more hot air, just the results my dears.

  19. Offal Spokesperson
    26 Nov 12
    3:16 pm

  20. I would like congratulate BillyC, well spotted, you have done a fine job in pointing this out.

    I would like to officially declare you the winner of the Accurate post of the thread award.

    2nd place goes to TW.

    Well done folks, a great result you should be very pleased, im proud to be able to present you with these awards and on behalf of everyone in the industry…