James Thompson
Sep 29, 2015

The threat of fragmentation

Does a proliferation of award categories reflect too much compartmentalisation in creative disciplines?

James Thompson
James Thompson

So goodbye to all that—for another year anyway. The end of the awards season sends creatives back to the coalface and liberates planners from writing endless case study submissions, hopefully to think some big thoughts that move the world on a notch again. 

Contrary to what many in the creative communications industries believe, clients usually want their agencies to win awards, especially on their own brands’ work. The psychopathic ones don’t, but who wants to work for them anyway? But as a jury chair, observer and (all too occasional) winner of such awards, it occurs to me that they increasingly reflect the confusion that the industry seems to be in while it wrestles with how to evolve.

Take Cannes Lions, for example. The flagship festival this year showcased at least 14 awards categories, each with numerous (20 to 30) sub-categories. This results in awards being given to some pretty specific areas of the craft (I like “Use of Ambient in a Promotional Campaign: Small Scale”).

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and details should be rewarded as part of life’s rich tapestry. What concerns me, though, is that the fragmentation of the reward system also seems to reflect the fragmentation of the thinking. Even the separation of ‘digital’ as a category—when everything in the consumers’ world is digital—strikes me as anachronistic.

Compartmentalising creative disciplines often results in smaller thinking when what we need is imagination and impact. 

If we encourage disaggregating ideas and creative platforms all that will happen is that someone will see the gap in the market for putting them back together again—and that could well be the client.

James Thompson is global managing director of Diageo Reserve (Diageo’s luxury portfolio). Follow or tweet him @JamesThompson1


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