European Digital Communication Awards in Berlin: the good, the bad and the awesome

European Digital Awards 2015

On Friday 25 September I attended the European Digital Communication Awards in Berlin. It’s the fifth time since it was launched in 2011 that I participate as a jury member, and it’s always a great learning experience. 


Jury member, a tough but rewarding job

As a jury member at the Digital Awards you don’t get to decide on the 34 awards to hand out: that would take several days! Instead, you are assigned to 4-5 categories in which the shortlisted projects are presented to you in a short 8-min pitch by the project owners (either by the organisation itself or their agency). 

Every year I get assigned different categories and learn from the best European communication projects. I feel very privileged! And while some years have been easy on me as a jury member, with easy choices to make, this year I have experienced a lack of consensus in some categories. 

In some cases it was because the projects presented were all of a very high standard, as in the Online Event category, which was won by two fantastic projects:

  • the Planica 2015 virtual ski  experience using VR orchestrated by Zavarovalnica Triglav. What I liked most about this project is that they managed to create an emotional connection between a flagship event for Slovenian people and their own brand. They did this by staying fully aligned with their core business and brand promise (insurance company promoting a dangerous experience but in a safe context, also leveraging the fact that their company name and logo refers to the main mountain in Slovenia). They also jumped on the VR bandwagon but in a thoughtful and re-usable fashion, moving away from the hype to actually create a useful product that can even serve for athletes’ training.
  • the live Twitter coverage of the Philae robot landing on a comet. This latter project won my heart by demonstrating that public institutions (in this case a consortium led by the German Space Agency ) can communicate with citizens in a humane, humorous and relevant way even on the most technical subject, and in real time. It’s a great case for us to learn from in the EU institutions.

In other cases it was more difficult because projects were so different: different budgets, different ways to evaluate impact and results, different levels of engagement with key audiences, different overall levels of ambition.

Sometimes projects were clearly below standards or were assigned to the wrong categories by the project owners. But the overall trend I spotted – and this is not new – is the lack of proper evaluation and impact measurement. It’s not that the tools or data are not available, it’s more that from the very start the expectations and ambition levels are not clearly defined. When asked about what success looks like on a project, many communicators are only able to provide an answer once the campaign is over, and more often than not by focusing on the figures (no. of followers, of views, etc.). How many times did I hear that this campaign is to ‘raise awareness’…

In the end, you can only vote with the information you receive, ie the description of the project in the jury package and the live presentation of the shortlisted project. If the presentation is a mess, this has an impact on your judgment, even if the project sounds like an awesome product launch or an innovation social media strategy. 

The winners: watch out for…

Among the winning projects, I would recommend paying attention to the following, some of which have been regular winners at the European digital awards. I’m sure the comms people in these organisations would be more than happy to share more insights with you if you ask.

  • Strategy of the Year: Sky News’ social media strategy for the UK General Election 2015 coverage. If you haven’t watched Sky News’ video teaser, you missed out on a great viral campaign! The whole campaign by the way s wonderfully orchestrated and Sky News reached a total of 10 million video views, 10 million referrals to the Sky News website as well as worldwide and UK Twitter trending content during the campaign period.
  • Innovation of the Year: the AkzoNobel Visualizer allows paint consumers to visualize walls in different colours and shades, in real time, before applying a single drop of paint. This app sounds like something easy to implement but it’s not! Akzo Nobel developed groundbreaking technology to make the user experience very smooth and seamless. The challenge for Akzo Nobel now will be to make sure the app is actually used to by their paint, but it’s still a great marketing coup!
  • NGO: I’m proud that colleagues from the EU’s Humanitarian Office were recognised for their contribution to the Disaster Resilience Journal campaign, co-launched with the International Red Cross among others. They used a web documentary in 11 languages and combined it with clever (social) media outreach and live events to reach a total of 125 million sessions, impressions and participants. Considering the technicality of the topic, this is quite a feat.
  • Institutions: the German Federal Ministry of transport launched a campaign to invite kids to wear their bike helmets, calling on Darth Vader to make helmet wearing ‘cool’. The fact that the hashtag they created #dankhelm generated a meme and is still used months after the campaign is testimony to the success of their initiative. Walt Disney also allowed free use of the Darth Vador character, which also explains the fantastic results achieved through the campaign.
  • Not a winner but I also really liked the angle adopted by the Herosz animal shelter campaign in Hungary.They turned traditional representation of animal shelters upside down by running an online campaign featuring a joyous shelter dog and asking people to finance one hour of happiness for the animals in the shelter. Thanks to the campaign, they collected enough money for the shelter to operate for a full year. This clearly demonstrated how positive messaging can help engage online users more and generate more donations than the traditional gloomy campaigns.

There are also companies whose name crop up every year among the winners: Jyske Bank (for their amazing use of video), Volvo, Heineken, Mattel, Maersk Line, Vodafone. It’s well worth checking out their winning entries and looking at their recipes for digital success.

All the winners and shortlisted entries are available with a short description at

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