Q&A: Mark Tungate, editorial director of The Epica Awards on what makes Epica unique

Portrait MT 012 haute def (1).jpgMark Tungate (left) was appointed editorial director of the Epica Awards two years ago. He's also a journalist and author, with six books about branding to his name, and a seventh on the way. Here he talks about what makes Epica unique.
The awards landscape is crowded and dominated by Cannes. What makes Epica different or relevant?
Our main USP is that we're the only awards judged by journalists from the advertising and marketing press. In fact our jury is composed of editors and senior journalists from 53 of the leading trade magazines around the world, including Campaign Brief, which represents Australia and New Zealand. This guarantees total objectivity - by the way, our jurors are not allowed to vote for work from their own countries - as well as a bit of extra fame worldwide for the winners. Our jurors don't favor certain networks or agencies. They're looking for the best work - period.
You've been trying to raise the level and prestige of Epica. How is that going?
Epica was founded in 1987, initially as a purely European prize. It went global in 2012 when it was acquired by the current owner, Maydream - which also owns the AdForum archive. So the big challenge has been to raise our profile globally. We've done that by recruiting more jurors, like yourselves, Adweek and Digiday in the US and several titles across Asia and Latin America. Last year we also rebranded with a new logo and our new positioning: "A different angle on creativity."
How do the Australians figure in Epica?
MT: Last year Australian agencies won two Golds, two Silvers and five Bronzes. There was also a Gold and a Silver from New Zealand.
The ceremony will be held in Berlin on November 19. Why there?
MT: We're not just an advertising awards, but a creative awards. We also cover design, PR and digital. We've traditionally held Epica in a different city every year, usually in partnership with a magazine on our jury. We're essentially looking for a city that symbolizes creativity. We were in Amsterdam last year, one of Europe's creative hubs. Berlin is associated with start-up culture, contemporary art and a certain avant-garde attitude.
So you expect us to trek all the way to Berlin just for one evening?
MT: Nope. During the day we also have our Epica Creative Circle conference, where we have speakers from Google, Mother and Organic New York, among others. I envisage it as a sort of interface between the world's trade press and the creative community.
Epica just launched a Virtual Reality category. Why?
During some conversations  I had with digital agencies, they complained that other awards didn't have a specific category that enabled them to enter virtual reality campaigns. As you know, thanks to devices like the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear, agencies are experimenting more and more with VR. So we thought it would be great if we could be pioneers in this field. Plus our jury are journalists, so they are always interested in a good story - and VR is definitely a big story this year.
If I'm a small agency with a limited budget, why should I enter your awards?
Well, we're quite a modest and humble competition. We get about 4,000 entries a year and we're considerably cheaper to enter than Cannes. So young agencies actually have a good chance of winning a prize. Plus we put all the highest scoring entries in our annual Epica Book. The book is sent free of charge to everyone who enters. So in a sense, everyone wins.

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