News & Views

Opinion / Great Case Videos are S.I.M.P.L.E.

by Contagious Contributor
Creative director and consultant Tom Eslinger has served on a Cannes Festival of Creativity jury five times, twice as jury president. He shares his insights into how to ensure a case study video stands out in the Award Show Scramble 

You’ve just finished a fantastic piece of work. You’ve been excited from Day One, talking about ‘the metal’ you’re going to pick up, that you’ve got a contender, maybe even saying it’s Cannes-tastic. You’ve taken pictures of the walls lovingly hung with post-its and groups of shiny young people with cameras and sketchpads. You might have even sat in a meeting about the case video you’re going to have done within the month. And then you go back to spinning plates of all shapes and sizes, until right about now. This is when I begin to feel the tinglings of the creative directors’ inner panic I lovingly call The Award Show Scramble.

I’ve been on many, many juries, including five times at Cannes and twice in a President’s Chair. I’ve watched 1000s of case videos in dark, cold little rooms and it’s been hugely rewarding to meet and learn from amazing people. Being on a Jury is an honor and it’s fun. I’ve never been bored and have met incredible people. The worst thing I’ve had to endure on every jury are horrible, time and money wasting case study videos.

These videos take many forms: they’ve been entered in categories without much thought, they’ve been set to a formula that’s so bad that the formula itself has award winning parody videos. They have stories crammed with so much information that you can’t find the special bit (let alone the idea), or loud and annoying soundtracks and worst of all, cases that are clearly entered in the award show at gunpoint, ones that have to go in because so and so said so, not on their merits.

Often, juries have a simple, scary, unwritten rule: if enough people on the jury put their hands up to stop a case video before it ends, it will usually get shut off, and jeered if it shows its head again. Every time this happens, I imagine the disappointment of the folks who had their hopes up, the disappointed finance person who had to sign off the fees and the client who was promised that a ‘risky’ creative idea would bring back some ‘metal’ for their office.

If a judge is going to lobby your story up the metal ladder, then these are the essential 6 points. There are links to case videos from my most recent Cannes Jury, the inaugural Creative Data Innovation Lions for each S.I.M.P.L.E. point:

Story: Even though we craft stories all day long, we sometimes forget to tell them for ourselves! How would you describe your case to the jury if you were doing it in person to a group of strangers? You’d tell a story that would engage and excite them. Then imagine you can’t do it in person! A good approach is to get another person to craft the outline for your case video from your story – as we are often way too close to the work to tell it simply and with fresh energy.

Insightful: A video isn’t doing well when you see confused or worse, blank, faces around the table when the narrator describes the insight which sparked the work. The case videos that sink the fastest are ones with loopy, meandering, tenuous connections between the audience, brief, idea and results. Make it clear why you did what you did with connections to your killer insight. If it’s complex, consider recapping the journey at the end of your case.


Measurable: When someone says that ‘creative awards aren’t about effectiveness’ , it’s tempting to wonder which season of Mad Men they just stepped out of. Every jury loves to find that quirky idea that hasn’t been shared to death, and they especially love it if it was wildly effective. Be clear about how it was measured, a little detail goes a long way to having credibility with a jury. When the ballots for moving from shortlist to awards gets heated, it’s often how hard the terrific idea worked that helps nudge up the colour of the metal.

Personalised: With so many categories, sub-categories and sometimes confusing winners from past shows to follow for examples of what to enter where, tailoring your video for the specific jury and award is a must-do. If it’s an outdoor jury, focus on why it’s a great outdoor idea, not just referred to that for five seconds in an integrated-focused case video.

Entering a mobile experience presented as an integrated case for a mobile category just doesn’t cut it – you need to be clear with the jury why you’ve got the work in the category AND why it’s a fantastic idea for their specific award. Of course, refer to the whole marketing program your work lived in, but get down into the details of the why it’s there and why it’s awesome. Juries are selected for their expertise for a particular award: make their expertise count. Plan for multiple cuts, give shout-outs to the show you’ve entered and make the jury feel like you made it just for them.

Length: Even if the entry guidelines say two or three minutes, use the amount of time you need to tell the story in the most concise, clear way without dragging it out to 1:59 just because you can. Cut the zoom headlines, twitter posts and repetitive titles. The respect you give the jury for their time will not go unnoticed.

Emotion: Great work inspires clients, teams and our customers, but inspiring a jury might be your toughest audience. Judges not only want to find the best work for their category, they want to put a stake in the ground to inspire entrants for years to come. Juries are creators too and the work that gets shown on award night reflects them as well. Make the kind of case video that makes everyone a winner. If there’s an inspirational theme in your idea, weave it through your story and make it emotional.

Your case videos have to cut through multiple categories and sub-categories, big and niche awards shows and 1000s of ideas hoping to get the attention of juries from diverse backgrounds, languages and experiences. They have to not only get across your idea, but connect emotionally and win them over, even though they may hate you for having such an original idea!

Make the kind of case video that makes everyone a winner. Just keep it S.I.M.P.L.E.