It’s that time of year again where agencies and creatives all across the globe take time to assess how good they were over the past 10-12 months. It’s a time-honored tradition in the advertising world where pride and insecurity join hands to stroke giant checks to
questionably relevant industry organizations.
Yes, it’s the beginning of award-show entry season.
Historically, this has always been a time of great excitement for me. In my formative days as a young copywriter, getting my work in “the shows” was a surefire way to get a raise, gain notoriety or get that next big job.
There was a lot riding on it. Even if the only people paying attention were other agency types.
That’s because, back in the day, award shows were the keepers of all the great work that had ever been done. How you or your agency fared in these contests told you all you needed to know as to where you stood in the world and how you stacked up against the best. The judges of those shows were both revered and feared for their power to make agencies and their people famous.
Then the internet happened.
In very short order creative work from all over the world was right at our fingertips: on blogs, on trade sites, personal portfolio sites and more. Suddenly I didn’t need some aging creative hotshot on a Caribbean judging boondoggle telling me what’s great and what’s not.
We could judge for ourselves.
Which brings me back to my original question. What is the value of award shows in today’s creatively democratized landscape?
Are we still THAT eager to break our arms patting ourselves on the back? To perpetuate the cliché that ad people are horribly myopic and self-absorbed? Because the truth is entering shows is hugely expensive for agencies. Clients don’t care about awards you’ve won. The big, national shows favor big brands with bigger budgets and local shows are only as good as the judges they recruit. And at the end of the day they don’t seem to improve either the agency or individual’s lives (especially given the hangover from the mediocre banquet they throw).
What if agencies instead took the money they’d normally spend on entries and bonused the people in their shops who really raised the bar. Better yet, what if they used that money to make a difference in the communities they do business in.
I don’t know. It’s just a thought.
But as someone who has a box full of shiny hardware and completely acknowledges the role it played in getting me where I am, I can’t help but wonder if it’s time to evolve how we acknowledge and reward amazing creativity.