ADMA brings back AC&E Awards after last-minute hiatus

Industry body ADMA (the Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising) has brought back its creativity and effectiveness awards – the AC&Es – after abruptly cancelling the process last year just minutes before the final entry deadline.

At the time of 2018’s cancellation, ADMA sent an email to members saying the celebration “deserves a broader platform beyond a spectacular gala night”. It promised the event would “be back in early 2019 bigger and better than ever”.

The AC&E Awards are back

The 2019 Awards are now open, with the industry body calling for entries, which are set to close on 18 July.  The winers are scheduled to be revealed on 24 October at a Gala dinner at The Star in Sydney.

ADMA CEO Andrea Martens confirmed to Mumbrella that the campaign assessment period had been extended to accomodate entries from last year.

The awards now feature eight entry disciplines and a total of 27 categories – down from the previous 45.

Speaking to Mumbrella about what the hiatus had taught the organisation, Martens said the industry body needed a clearer role in the market.

“Whilst celebrating great work is important, we need to find more ways to nurture talent and capability,” she said. “By working closely with the industry, we were able to create a bigger platform for AC&E centred around the power of strategy and creativity to deliver effectiveness.”

Martens said the awards, which opened three days ago, had already received “tremendous interest” from the industry.

As promised, it will be more than a gala night, she said.

There will also be AC&E School, a 12-week program targeted at mid-level planners and creatives. The 40 participants will graduate at the AC&E Awards.

In addition, Martens said there would be the AC&E Brand Circle, a targeted event to discuss how clients can extract the best creativity and strategy from their agencies and teams.

She noted the steering committee for the new AC&E Platform included Steve Croll, Sudeep Gohil, Rebecca Carrasco, Fabio Buresti, David Bell, Asheen Naidu and Tom Ward.

“By working closely with the industry, we were able to create a bigger platform for AC&E centred around the power of strategy and creativity to deliver effectiveness. There is nothing like this in the market,” Martens said.

Last year’s last-minute cancellation came at a tumultuous time for both industry awards and the industry body itself.

The upheaval appeared to begin when long-serving CEO Jodie Sangster departed ADMA and its parent organisation AADL in March last year for a role with IBM, with COO Steve Sinha appointed to cover Sangster’s roles until a permanent replacement was found.

Ben Sharp, former managing director of AdRoll, then joined ADMA as its managing director, with the CEO role not being directly replaced. He only lasted two weeks though, with Sinha then pushed back up to oversee ADMA and AADL.

In June, former CEO of Aussie Home Loans Stephen Porges became CEO of the overarching body AADL – which oversees ADMA, as well as the Institute for Analytics Professionals Australia (IAPA), Data Governance Australia (DGA) and Digital + Technology Collective – with Sinha going back to his ADMA role.

Sharp was finally replaced in August, with former global chief brand officer of Jurlique, Andrea Martens taking on the ADMA managing director role. Chief member officer, Mandy Eyles, also left the organisation.

In April this year, Porges stepped down, with Martens taking on the expanded role.

At the same time, industry awards programs last year were under increased pressure.

In March 2018, the Media Federation of Australia (MFA) cancelled its awards for the year, saying it needed to rethink its criteria for recognising effectiveness. The next day, it then announced its member agencies would ‘pause’ entering all domestic award programs for 12 months. The ban was said to be about giving profit-stretched agencies a chance to better allocate their resources, but did not apply to international programs such as Cannes.

The MFA’s move came after a period of controversy over industry awards involving media agencies. A Mumbrella investigation had previously revealed exaggerated and misleading claims made by Atomic 212 and its then CEO, Jason Dooris, in various award entries. Two months after the investigation, Dooris departed the agency, which is an MFA member.

The MFA also engineered a boycott of the AdNews Awards, as a result of perceived failings in its judging process, forcing the publication to cancel its media agency categories last year.

This year, the MFA Awards are also returning after a 12-month break promising “increased emphasis on effectiveness and transparency in the judging process”.

The awards will be complemented by new “effectiveness expo” MFA EX, which will aim to “highlight ground-breaking media thinking, innovation, people development and best practice in driving marketing effectiveness”, the organisation said. Sydney media agencies will shut down on 17 October to attend the daytime expo and awards ceremony that night.


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