How to win big at the IPM Awards 2020


Stewart Hilton, Co-founder and Creative Partner, ZEAL Creative, shares his top tips for winning at the IPM Awards. 

In recognition of the launch of the IPM Awards 2020 – and as the current Agency Of The Year – I’ve been asked to give IPM Bitesize readers ZEAL’s top tips for winning at the IPM Awards. 

It feels a bit strange to share the ‘secret sauce’ behind our IPM success, but having discussed this with my partner Rob White, we have decided to do it.

Why?  Because we love this industry

Rob and I have worked in this business together for 25 years and we’ve seen how much joy winning an IPM Award gives to our teams, to our clients and to the whole agency. We still know of no better benchmark of effectiveness in the UK and we want the IPM Awards to thrive.   If a few honest words from us encourages a few more agencies to enter the fray, that’s great, we welcome the chance to be inspired by your work.

ZEAL’s Top Ten Tips for IPM Success

  1. Get the whole agency on board with the IPM Awards. This is their Oscars. Our industry is all about effectiveness and the IPM Awards, judged by your peers, remains the best measure of this.
  1. Think IPM Awards when you execute your campaigns – set clear targets and gather corresponding results, take professional photos of activity in market, collect content for videos. Build this into the main campaign timing plan and even your budgets.
  1. Shortlist ruthlessly! Decide honestly which of your campaigns truly deserves an award. Start with those with great results but also ask; was it innovative? Does it take our industry forward? Was it better than other campaigns in this category this year? Far better to craft 3 really strong entries than 10 mediocre ones.
  1. Don’t enter if you don’t have GREAT RESULTS. You won’t win! Make sure you can show exactly what your campaign delivered against the objectives set. Make results clear and give them context so a judge can see why they are particularly strong.
  1. Write clearly and keep it short. But make it interesting. We try to give the judges a story. Set the scene, add a little tension, tell your happy ending. And PLEASE don’t make grammatical mistakes or use exaggeration or unnecessary superlatives; we are in the comms business and the senior agency heads that judge these awards hate all this.
  1. The best way to help judges fully appreciate your campaign is via a short video. This can showcase your story, unveil your best visuals and reveal the results in little more than a minute. Use visual boards to bring the key headlines of your story to the fore. (This material is great for creds so you’re also creating a lasting legacy.)
  1. Start early and create a timing plan like any other project. This enables your team to fit the writing and design into ‘the cracks’ of daily agency, removing time pressure and cost.
  1. Use the teams that created the work to write first drafts of the entry forms but brief them well (show them past winning entries to use as models). ALWAYS retain senior level editing input, ideally someone who has previously judged the IPM Awards.
  1. Judge the awards! Volunteering to be a judge is the best way to see what winning entries look like. It will give you lots ideas for future entries and you’ll be inspired by the campaigns you see and the people you judge with.
  1. Seek senior-level client approval for your entries early and secure their buy in to go for a win. If you do this early it really helps the team to chase down the critical results they need to write a winning entry.

The event itself

Winning Agency Of The Year was amazing. We had no idea. We knew we had a chance of ‘Team of the Year’ for Nestlé (that’s why we brought a decent sized crew with us from Manchester). At half time we were not doing that well, but a second-half surge delivered a lot of metal to the table and just as we realised we might have a shot at the big prize, we were called to the stage.

After that, it was a blur of dancing, drinking and being congratulated by lots of lovely people.

When we got home the office had been decorated with AOTY banners and we organised a second celebration event to share the joy with everyone in the agency. The overriding feeling of the win was pride in our team; a just reward for the amazing effort they bring to our agency every single day.

ZEAL since winning

The 2019 haul of awards has given us a really strong set of creds this year with some brilliant case studies to show prospective clients.

The fact that 7 of these campaigns also went on to win awards at the IMC across Europe, only strengthened this further.

In the past 6 months, we’ve added 3 big new clients to our roster, all without a pitch.  Was this level of new business interest generated by our IPM news?  I’m not sure, but it certainly didn’t do us any harm.

Reading IPM Bitesize it’s clear that there’s been some fabulous work created this year by lots of different agencies, we wish you all the very best with your entries and as a judge myself I look forward to being inspired by your work.

Check out ZEAL Creative’s work HERE and get in touch with Stewart at

To find out more about the IPM Awards 2020 – our 50th anniversary! – and how to enter, contact the IPM Awards team and on 020 3848 0444.