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How to make an award-winning B2B ad

Our ad, The Stalking, has been on a tear since we launched it in October 2021. It was the most popular marketing video in 2021 on The Juice, won Silver at the B2B Elevation Awards and won a Drum Chip Shop Award for Best Parody.

Full disclosure, winning awards is not the mission of any ad. But with attribution to a single creative ad being extremely difficult, it can be a great litmus test of an individual ad’s value.

I’ve identified four factors that explain why The Stalking is winning awards, and that you can leverage in your next B2B ad. While merely checking these boxes won’t guarantee a winner, it’ll at least boost your odds of creating an ad people love.

But first, please check out The Stalking. Or else the rest of this article won’t make sense!

Factor 1: It’s funny

Humor, done right, is one of the most powerful ingredients of successful advertising. We as a species love to laugh.

If your ad can make someone laugh or even chuckle, it’s done more for that person than 99.9% of the other ads out there. Humor delivers instant, tangible value in the giving of a laugh – on top of  the actual marketing message which may deliver value by solving their problem.

Speaking of marketing messages, don’t forget to include one! We see so many examples of funny ads that forget to include an actual advertisement or bury the brand so deep you can’t recall who the ad was for.

Factor 2: It’s real

Real? How can a spot about a company stalking an innocent prospect to the point of mental breakdown be real?

Well, if you go back and read the previous sentence by itself, it’s not really far off. There is an epidemic of lead gen gone too far right now. While the execution of the spot is taken to the extreme, ie. screaming in a laundry room, “what do you want from me!?” – the premise is itself quite commonplace.

The idea is to make your characters act like real people, even if the situations they are in are fictional. Think about Star Trek. It takes place in space aboard a starship going faster than the speed of light (completely fictional) – but yet all of the characters (some of whom are fictional aliens) act believably. They are real.

When you’re operating from realism, even when you are going to an extreme, everything becomes more palatable and audiences lean in.

Factor 3: It parodies an existing story device

This factor can be filed away under “don’t reinvent the wheel.”

Chris Rock once said the key to his stand up act wasn’t joke quality or timing. It was attention.

Because without the audience’s attention, they are unable to hear, process and react to his material.

The same goes for your ads. It’s a constant battle for attention.

One of the secrets to grabbing attention is to use your audience’s desire to use heuristics. Heuristics are mental shortcuts that allow people to navigate through life without expending too much mental energy.

One way to leverage heuristics is to parody a story device that everyone knows. In this case we used the horror movie trailer.

Since everyone knows how a movie trailer typically works, we simply abided by the rules of trailers and filled ours with B2B marketing content. Instant audience attention! Why? Because they aren’t wasting mental calories on understanding our plot, they are able to focus on the words and actions of the people. They already know how the trailer is going to go.

Try parodying an existing story device instead of reinventing the wheel to give yourself an advantage in the war for attention.

Factor 4: It’s broadly relatable

The Stalking is aimed at the B2B marketing audience. It’s quite specific and catered to this audience. Yet it’s also popular amongst non B2B marketers. How can this be?

Simple. We went deep, just not too deep. When writing the spot, we made sure we never made jokes that were too inside. Everyone, even consumers, have experienced downloading gated content and then being stalked.

Why did we do this?

Because when you have broad relatability, you get organic reach (read: virality). Our real target audience is probably only 80,000 people in the world. But that’s not a big enough audience to get any kind of organic momentum. It’s the people outside the target audience that will help us reach our target audience through social shares.

The takeaway here is to always measure your content against “civilians” or people not in your target audience or even industry. If it’s relatable to them, you’ve got a winner. If it’s not, you may need to loosen your specificity.

Your turn!

There’s no one way to make an award-winning ad. And there’s definitely no paint-by-number recipe. But there are factors that go into ads people love. We can’t wait to see your next award-winning ad!





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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