Introducing the CMA’s new awards

June 14th, 2016

The CMA is revamping its content marketing awards scheme for 2016, with a host of new awards designed to reflect the rapid changes in content marketing. CMA managing director Clare Hill discusses the new-look awards with consultant editor Dominic Mills.

Dominic Mills: Clare, you’ve revamped the awards for this year. Tell us some of the thinking behind this.

Clare Hill: It’s quite simple, really. I’ve been at the CMA for just over three years now, and in that time we’ve seen some really significant changes in content marketing. In a way, you can see it in the make-up of the CMA’s membership.

We have had a stream of new members joining over the last 18 months or so – the big media agencies, obviously, but also digital and performance agencies, those from TV and video backgrounds, PR and some with their roots in social. At the same time, we’ve had specialist content agencies, and the content arms of publishers also join us.

It’s very diverse, it’s very rich, and you can see that in the types of content marketing that they produce. They have brought new skills, new ideas and new techniques to content marketing.

How would you characterise that work?

Clearly a lot of it is digital, and driven by the advances in technology and the other things that make up the eco-system, such as new platforms and greater use of data and real-time content.

The scope of what is possible now in content has changed out of all recognition. There are so many ways for brands to reach and engage with consumers.

Obviously, we’ve had video for some time, and in the last two years more social content marketing – much of which combines the things that I have been talking about: new platforms, data and the shift towards real-time.

So how did that lead to changes in the awards?

At the beginning of this year we looked at hard at the 2015 awards, as we do every year, and we felt they could be adjusted to better reflect our industry.

There’s one vital thing to remember. It’s that the CMA awards are the only international ones focused solely on content. They are, therefore, a global showcase for the industry, a way to show to existing clients and to new ones the great work that is out there. So we needed categories that reflected all the brilliant new things going on in content marketing.

So while our awards were fantastically popular – last year we had over 400 entries from 100 different agencies, and 21 countries – some of the newer-type work was entered into broader categories, and we couldn’t highlight it the way we wanted to.

Last year, for example, about half of all entries included some element of social, and it’s the most popular part of any entries focusing on multi-channel strategies.

OK, so tell us about some of the new categories.

There are ten new ones altogether. There’s a full list below.

Best Use of Social is one. We’ve also included a category for Best Real-Time Activation, because that is one of the things that content, which is editorially-led, does so well.

We’ve also included an award for Best Innovation, simply because there so many exciting things going on in content. In many ways, content is an ideal way to try out new things – it might be augmented reality, geo-location or facial recognition technology.

One of the things we’ve also seen is that content has moved from being a tactical weapon to a strategic one. This means that, whereas before, there might have been an on-off element to content, now it’s often part of an annual play that is absolutely central to the brand’s overall activities. So we’ve added a category called Best Annual Content Strategy.

That’s interesting. So you’re going beyond just rewarding execution?

Very much so.

First, as I’ve said, brands are taking a more strategic approach to content in the context of their total marketing effort. Second, content agencies are doing some brilliant thinking work – right at the beginning of the process – so we’ve introduced an award for Best Strategist/Planner of the Year.

Second, data is a vital weapon in the strategist or planner’s toolbox. And content produces very rich data – way beyond some of the more usual media metrics. So another of our new categories is Best Use of Data and Insight.

And third, there’s no point in producing great content if it isn’t seen. As they say, that’s like building cathedrals in the desert. Because there are so many channel choices across the paid, owned and earned spectrum, you’ve got to get your content out there. That’s why we’ve introduced a Best Distribution Strategy category. Distribution is more important than ever.

What was the process for deciding new categories?

We analysed last year’s entries thoroughly. We saw more social, we saw more real-time, we saw more video, we saw more focus on new platforms and so on. We saw more for FMCG clients, which was quite new to us. FMCG is a huge category, with very special requirements, and we felt there was a case for rewarding outstanding work in another vertical, so we added Best FMCG. I hope that this award will inspire more FMCG marketers to see what content can do for them.

Last year, we also produced three special reports – Data Intelligence; The Role of Social; and Video Content for Engagement – and we looked at the trends in those areas and surveyed our members. Nine out of ten, for example, said social had a positive impact on their content marketing.

We debated the changes with senior industry figures, and here we are.

Have you lost any categories?

What we’ve done is combined some. So, for example, we now have one B2B category, one for Print, and one for Best Membership.

We’ve lost two: Launch of the Year, and Best Public Sector/Government. Sadly, there has to be a limit on the total number of awards. So we now have 26 altogether.

How does that compare with other schemes?

Well, it’s still less than others. The other thing we noticed was that other award ceremonies went on and on for hours. We’ve always been very strict about timing, and even with the new categories, we’ll still be done and dusted on the night in just over an hour. That will leave plenty of time for celebrations.

But some things presumably haven’t changed?

Absolutely. Number one is that we remain clearly focused on effectiveness. We’re the only content awards where we ask entrants to demonstrate results, and our judges – as they should be – are pretty tough on that.

Number two, we’re the only pure content awards that is global. I think this year we’ll get even more interest from other markets.

Number three is that we have a really high calibre of judges, who are always expert and experienced. This year, we’ll be adding new experts.

So what’s your advice to entrants?

Enter! If you’re not in, you can’t win. And remember to show the difference your work made to your clients’ businesses.

On a more serious note, the CMA International Awards have always had a high reputation. We’re just going to build that reputation higher.

And, as of June 15th, we’re open for entry.

Go to to find out more.

Full list of Awards for 2016

  1. Best Automotive
  2. Best FMCG*
  3. Best Finance
  4. Best Travel
  5. Best Membership
  6. Best Retail Consumer
  7. Best Non-Retail Consumer
  8. Best Internal
  9. Best Specialist
  10. Best B2B
  11. Best Real-Time Activation*
  12. Best Distribution Strategy*
  13. Best Use of Data & Insight*
  14. Best Annual Content Strategy*
  15. Best Content on Owned Media Channels*
  16. Best Use of Monetised Content*
  17. Best Use of Innovation*
  18. Best Print
  19. Best Social*
  20. Best Video
  21. Best use of Illustration
  22. Best use of Photography
  23. Editor of the year
  24. Designer of the year
  25. Strategist / Planner of the year*
  26. Grand Prix

*New award

Dominic Mills, Consultant editor to The CMA
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