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As the results came in from 25 independent Solal judges across Europe, the person co-ordinating the results was Alan Thornton, CEO of AL Marketing in London and Head of the European Solal Marketing Awards team. He shares his view on the winning entries and considers what Rodovre Centrum, the winner of eight awards, does right when it comes to outstanding marketing effort.

The Solals are considered to be the ‘Oscars’ of the Retail Marketing Industry in Europe and much like the celebrated movie awards, in some years one name seems to win everything. This was certainly true of the Solals in 2022 where Rødovre Centrum in Copenhagen scooped eight awards in total including five Golds and the ultimate Platinum ‘Best of the Best’ Award for their “We Are Live” campaign.


My first instinct as Chair was to check if something had gone wrong with the judging platform, but sure enough, 25 judges had individually reviewed all the entries, assessing the objectives, originality, implementation and the results, all measured against the effectiveness of the budget. Rødovre got astonishing marks across every one of their entries.

As an awards team we are keen to see success rewarded across the whole of Europe, and the other 33 winning entries ranged from small centers to large; from Portugal to Turkey, so it has been great to celebrate such a wide range of amazing work across the continent. There were other deserving Gold winners including Manufaktura in Poland with two Golds; and one each for UBBO in Portugal, Cushman & Wakefield in Spain and CityPark in Austria.

But what is it about Rødovre Centrum (RC) that leads to their repeated success? And what can other centers learn from their approach? This is my take on what they are doing right.

1 – They are brimming with originality

Many centers enter some fairly predictable activities which are perfectly credible as part of a day-to-day marketing programme, but don’t stand out from the crowd. Every one of RC’s entries is totally original in its own right or demonstrates an inventive twist on a traditional approach.

2 – They are ‘of the moment’

There is an art to hitting the zeitgeist and this was demonstrated to perfection with RC’s ‘Girltalk’ initiative tackling girls’ self-esteem issues. Meanwhile for ‘We Are Live’ they showed a highly commercial response to the need to continue retail trade despite stores being closed during lockdown.

3 – They play to their strengths

RC is not the biggest or newest shopping destination in Copenhagen. But they have found their niche and know exactly how to hit their target audiences with just the right activation and method of communication. It proves that the big winners don’t need to have the shiniest malls or the most lavish budgets. (‘We Are Live’ cost a fraction of their overall budget and won the prize for best campaign under €10,000 in addition to the ‘Best of the Best’ award.)

4 – Keeping it emotional

RC knows exactly how to develop a campaign which is emotionally charged – hard-hitting when it needs to be as in ‘Girltalk’, or humorously effective when that fits the brief. Their ‘Furry Christmas’ fashion campaign featuring rescue dogs as models stands out as an example of this. Yet, it also demonstrates another feature which elevates their entry even further…

5 – Adding an extra push

Using rescue dogs in “Furry Christmas” is great in itself, but the RC team went even further by featuring the volunteer workers at the rescue center as the stars of the campaign. This gives the extra punch which, in Solal terms, resonates with the judges, makes the entry stand out, and scores additional points. My hunch is that the team at RC always asks, “What more can we do to make this idea even better?” It is a persistence that always pays off.

6 – They integrate everything

RC manages to ensure they have every angle covered. If they are staging an event, they ask, “What additional PR aspect can we add?”; “What social media opportunity is there?” “How do we connect with the tenants?” Their campaign ‘Gold and Magic’ is a case in point. Partnering with the local museum – closed during the pandemic – was inventive enough in bringing culture to customers but they also cleverly thought – “How do we integrate our stores into the exhibition?”

7 – They get results

Creating innovative ideas is hard, but the other thing RC does is to show how these brilliant concepts also score hard hitting commercial results and ROI. Their campaigns are not just ‘fluffy ideas’. There is a tough business reality underpinning all the thinking which resonates with the judges.

8 – They know how to put an entry together

As judges we often see elements of a great concept, but the way they are communicated within the application lets down the idea. It is often clear to see where the applicant did not have much time to put their entry together. Or they got confused by having to juggle too many objectives. A big reason for failure is often the inability to link the objectives to tangible results. RC always keeps all of their entries really simple: a few short objectives rather than a dozen; a clear story about what their challenge was and why they did what they did; they show clear examples of their work that the judges can follow. They give an honest and understandable summary of the results and the budget.

This clarity of approach applies to all the other winning entries too, not just to Rødovre Centrum. So for this reason we will be sharing them via Across Magazine and the ECSP website so that marketing teams can use them as a bank of great case studies as they prepare for the next Solals in 2023. I would encourage people to view them as part of their annual planning process, as well as before applying for next year’s awards.

To extend the educational aspect of the awards we will also be running webinars in the new year where the winners will share their expertise. We are also in discussion with the European Shopping Places Trust (ESPT) about financial support towards the educational dimension of the awards with the aim of staging a full European Marketing Conference in 2023 along with a new-look live awards ceremony. All of our 2022 winners will be invited to the new event for a chance to meet fellow winners and claim the glory they deserve for their winning campaigns in 2022.

I have no doubt Rødovre Centrum will feature heavily in the applications next year. But I also hope we see more marketers learning from their success. Let us aim for even more Solal trophies being won right across the continent in 2023.


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