It’s not the promise of sunshine, warm weather and flip-flops that has the advertising industry excited about the arrival of spring. It’s Award Show Season, silly.
Yup, creatives and production partners will soon start gathering in ballrooms across the globe for some good old-fashioned drinking, back patting and ego stroking.
The pursuit of advertising awards certainly has its detractors. Some think they’re a waste of time, energy and money while others are even harsher in their criticism claiming that they undermine the credibility of the industry and individual relationships between agencies and their clients.
Well, to all those who say that the pursuit of awards is wrong, I disagree.
Advertising awards show are a good thing. Here’s why:
Wake up and smell the employee of the month.
Have you ever picked up a newspaper and seen a full-page ad for the top selling real estate agents in your area? How about an Employee of the Month Glamour Shot at your local McDonalds? Of course you have.
Simply put, every industry and most companies on the planet congratulate themselves. Actors, plumbers, pharma reps, and yes, even clients. I find it funny that those who speak out against advertising award shows usually do so between an afternoon of “personal time” and an awards gala hosted by Jann Arden at a week long sales retreat in Vegas. Like it or not, recognition is something we all crave and we’re no different.
We all know that true success in this industry is helping our clients sell more products. Every respected professional I know truly believes this. Seriously. We do. Still, there are too many variables to isolate the sound design of a pre-roll Internet spot and know the effect it had on results. And while I’m comfortable that clients have their own tools for analysis (I really am), I’d prefer my work not be judged by the quality of a storyboard and Millward Brown Link Score. Award show definitions are easy and precise: This is great. This is not.
They work. Usually.
Does every award winner contribute to positive sales? Of course not. But they usually do. Nothing can guarantee success. Hell, if there was a magic pill that did, I would sell it out of my trunk and recommend every client take it by the bucket full. But there’s not. So, until one is created, we’ll have to be confident that most award winning ads perform better than expected. And pursuing work that is award show worthy is usually better for the brand.
Regardless, It doesn’t take Lee Clow’s Beard to know that an original idea with an insightful strategy and flawless execution SHOULD work better. There’s certainly enough data to prove that. And when a team of people (client included) is able to pull off that holy trinity, they should be acknowledged, awarded and admired because they’ll make the rest of us better and help us help our clients sell more.
Justifying bad ads.
To quote my old North America Creative boss Jeff Kling, “Saying ‘the ad isn’t great but it worked’ is just an excuse for a shitty ad.” Put another way, people used to love talking about Guy Lafleur smoking a pack of butts a day. “He wasn’t healthy but he was successful.” My first thought was always, “Can you imagine what he would have accomplished if he didn’t smoke?” If a crappy idea worked, can you imagine the results if the brand lead with a compelling piece of communication?
Our work is supposed to sell. The real challenge is to make something brilliantly unique and brilliantly successful. Awards shows remind that us that they’re not mutually exclusive.
Pro hockey players are paid millions to simply play the game and that should be enough to motivate them. As we all know, even they need more. So do we. Should we stay past midnight to get it right for our clients? Of course we should. And we often do. But we’re human. So when there’s a remote possibility of recognition, acknowledgement, and career advancement, staying past midnight becomes a little easier. The possibility of an award is why some can stay to perfect an idea at 2am when the client would have been happy with the one at 8pm.
Are award shows perfect? Definitely not.
There’s too many of them, they’re too focused on the creative teams opposed to the advertising teams, and I certainly could do without some of the egos that are generated because of them. While I have won my fair share of awards, I’m not even close to being in the league of some top Canadians who consistently walk home with hardware. But I still respect award shows. They motivate me to do better and in the end, my career and my clients are better off because of them.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing more frustrating and motivating than seeing something and thinking, “I wish I’d done that.” But you have to see it to get it.