Mike Fromowitz
Dec 2, 2012

Who needs more ad award shows?

Before I begin this post, let me say that I remain a positive advocate of ad award shows. They are an incentive that helps to generate better ideas in the industry, and they do take advertising ...

Who needs more ad award shows?

Before I begin this post, let me say that I remain a positive advocate of ad award shows. They are an incentive that helps to generate better ideas in the industry, and they do take advertising forward. They also bring attention to new talents and to the best talents in the industry.

This post is an attempt, not to trash award shows, but merely to point out a great opportunity for our industry, as I believe awards shows can do more to promote creative values and demonstrate why our industry is so exciting to work in.

This past week, I received an email from a colleague in Singapore about a new advertising award show out of Europe. My first reaction was, “Are you kidding me?”

I’m certain my reaction would be much the same as most other people in the business.  After all, our in-boxes are full of messages from this and that advertising awards competition announcing their new award judging committees, deadlines, entry details, and past winners.

Most award shows require money to enter their competitions, sometimes a lot of money. We enter these awards with the belief that they help to market our agencies, and win new clients. Winning awards is also a great incentive for staff—and, contra to what some believe, many of our clients love it too.

However, with so many award shows around the world, it’s important for agencies to consider the best shows to enter for the money, and which ones offer true “value”.

Most of the emails I receive from these award programs show both young and middle-aged professionals gathered around a table judging last year’s entries—one of the most boring ways to win my interest.

But this year, they got me to thinking. As an industry, we spend a lo of time talking to each other, and these awards shows create the venue for it. Thanks to the web, they have also created a venue for many a naysayer to pooh-pooh the awards as agency folly. Many see the awards shows as advertising patting it self on the back, whether the ad campaigns entered have increased sales or not.

One recent blog posted the following: “The obsession with advertising awards among agencies is such a funny thing. Not just odd funny either, but hysterically funny. With all the glitz of the Academy Awards, but none of the fame, screaming fans or paparazzi, we show up on the beaches of Cannes or a rented hall in New York to honor each other multiple times a year with shiny statues for doing work that most of the rest of the world pretty much reviles.”

Another said: “What's wrong with award shows? Too much of it is spec work, or agency versions and directors' cuts. It's bad enough that the shows award fake work. To make matters worse, consider how many creative directors appraise potential hires based on how much hardware they've taken home. Which just rewards participation in the whole charade in the first place.”

Sounds to me like advertising awards and advertising in general are suffering a personality problem, given the increasing number of negative comments inflicted by people both inside and outside our industry.

As I see it, the awards are still a source of inspiration to students and professionals alike, and the only way to stop some of this whinging and knocking is for award shows to also trumpet the values of advertising and do more to celebrate it than just recognize great ads.

There’s perhaps no better time than now to reach out and let the world know how exciting our industry is to work in.

The question is, do we really need more awards shows telling ad professionals about who is doing the best advertising? Or do we need to hear more from those people who are innovators in the industry, including designers, typographers, photographers, illustrators, web experts, and whoever else cares about the craft of advertising?  There are sadly too few people around like David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, and Leo Burnett playing the role today.

We need to win more friends inside and outside our industry and turn them into fans again. Advertising needs to set for itself a new priority, and that could just be turning the world’s best awards shows into vehicles for reminding the general public and ourselves, what makes advertising so special. And more than just a venue for handing out awards to ourselves.

Mike Fromowitz



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