Who really wins at advertising creative award shows?

This is the next in a series of one-minute videos that address one of the many complex challenges facing marketing, media and advertising today. The Golden Minute series is an attempt to prove Albert Einstein right when he said “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple”.

But he also said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”. So we will leave it for you to judge. Please let us know here if there is a topic you would like us to cover in a Golden Minute.

Who are the big winners at this year’s Creative Award shows? If you said the agencies, you’re wrong. The big winners appear to be the ever-increasing numbers of award show organisers who run these shows for fun and profit.

What is going on with advertising Creative Awards?

That is what we asked in this post back in July 2017 after the CEO of Publicis Groupe, Arthur Sadoun, announced that the holding company would be taking a year out from Award Shows. His announcement, made during the Cannes International Festival of Creativity had the desired effect.

It caused the other Holding Companies to pause and rethink their huge investment in creative awards and ultimately impacted the recently publicly listed owners of the Cannes Festival, Ascential, to make changes to the awards and the festival in response.

Of course, as we approach the start of this year’s Cannes Festival, it will be interesting to see how all of this impacts both the number of entries or the number of attendees. In fact if the trends of the past few years continue, even if the number of agency people decrease, the number of marketers and advertisers and the tech companies and social media platforms will most likely more than make up for the absence of the Publicis contingent.

The credibility of awards called into question

Closer to home Awards were called into question when Mumbrella, known for organising an industry award show or more, blew the whistle on what they maintain was an example of blatant exaggeration by media agency Atomic 212.

The industry outcry was significant and earlier this year it was an obvious influence in the Media Federation of Australia (MFA) making a decision to not enter any domestic industry awards this year and to also cancel their own awards this year, providing time to rethink the award format.

It was not unexpected for us, as we have seen many exaggerations from agencies, not only in Award entries, but also in agency credentials. Unfortunately we are often prevented by calling this behaviour out as our work is done under rigorous and broad non Disclosure Agreements.

We certainly let our clients know when an agency strays from the facts. We put this issue to the industry with one of our Industry Polls and the results supported our own experience with 78% of respondents agreeing that agency exaggeration happens often.

The role of advertising awards

Sure, there are plenty of reasons for why the industry needs awards. And some marketers openly support the award process. But Michael Farmer, Executive Chairman at TrinityP3 has pointed out what perhaps the industry has lost its way with creativity being celebrated and championed more often than improving business results.

Of course there has been a trend in all awards to introduce an Effectiveness category. Cannes introduced an effectiveness category for all winners from the previous year. And the IPA does an excellent job of proving creative effectiveness through rigorous case studies.

Other award shows have started recognising the role of the advertiser / client in the creative process, awarding Marketers for their creativity and role in promoting creativity from their agencies for their brands.

But you have to ask why celebrate creativity unless it is driving business growth or change. Creativity for its own sake is ideal in the arts and culture, but in a commercial environment it is simply indulgent. Would you be happy as a marketer to be awarded and recognised for your encouragement of creativity when your brand and business was underperforming?

Yes creative awards are recognition, they attract creative talent to an agency, they fill pages of industry websites with results, they fill award events with paying customers all hoping to win. But their usefulness as any type of industry benchmarking system on who is doing outstanding work and who is not is predicated on the quality and robustness of the judging process.

Too many advertising award shows

There are too many awards. 700 at recent count. Each new award show has the potential of making the other award shows less significant. After all if everyone is winning an award is anyone really a winner?

Agencies can shop around to find the award show to make them Agency of the year? Or campaign of the year? Or what ever of the year? Simply playing a numbers game, and with a little exaggeration (also known as creative award entry writing) you could sweep the pool.

But why are there so many awards? Have you wondered? Well could it be because Award Shows are good for business. When I was President of the Melbourne Advertising and Design Club (MADC) the award show was the ‘revenue raiser’ that kept the Club in the black for the whole year.

Award entry fees, Award Show tickets, extra award trophies and certificates, all added to the coffers. And if you are also a media outlet it provides huge amounts of content in the call for entries, the judging process, the award event and the results of course. There is even milage in tracking the award results to create a creative ranking.

So is it simply that the business of awards is just out of control? The market will of course decide. But are we seeing the cracks appearing already with the changes at Cannes once Publicis withdrew from the awards for a year and now the Media Agencies of the MFA doing the same?

Everyone loves to be a winner, but perhaps advertising agencies are questioning at what cost and also concerned about who are the real winners in the business of advertising awards.

Golden Minute Script

Everyone loves a good award show. A chance to dress up. Recognise and acknowledge a job well done.

But who is actually the winner?

Is it the agencies who pay for the entries and tickets?

Is it the advertiser who paid for the work?

The industry judges who give up their time for free?

Is it the creative team hoping to further their careers?

The sponsors who get to present the awards?

Or is it the organisations who run these shows?

Who profit from offering another award show to an industry hungry for recognition.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a night out. But at last count there were 700 advertising award shows in the world. How many award shows do we need?

And now for the next award.

In the category of “Biggest financial benefit from running awards shows” the envelope please…

And the winner is…. I’ll let you decide.

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