ADMA cancels AC&E Awards at last moment

Industry body ADMA has pulled the plug on its 2018 awards just minutes before the final deadline for entries, Mumbrella can reveal.

In a terse email to entrants yesterday afternoon, ADMA – the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising – said the celebration “deserves a broader platform beyond a spectacular gala night”.

The organisation has also removed all reference to this year’s Australian Creativity & Effectiveness Awards from its website. The ADMA awards were renamed the AC&E Awards in 2014.

The move comes less than a week after the conclusion of rival trade body The Communication Council’s Effies Awards which also recognise advertising effectiveness.

The timing of the announcement angered some industry executives, with one telling Mumbrella agencies had been “working their arses off” to get their entries in on time.

“So much effort and many head hours goes into preparing award entries, especially from an award show that demands figures which must be sourced from clients, and signatures of approval from clients. This is despicable,” the executive said.

ADMA was light on details as to why the event would not run in 2018, instead promising they would “be back in early 2019 bigger and better than ever”.

There will be no AC&E Awards in 2018

“The AC&E Awards has been recognising the importance of sustainable growth and creative thinking in advertising, marketing and media by bringing the industry together to acknowledge the most original and result-driven campaigns,” general manager of events and activations at ADMA’s parent organisation, AADL, Helena Mikhailova said in the email to entrants.

When pushed by Mumbrella for more details about what had led to the delay, and how the program would be different next year, CEO of AADL Stephen Porgess, claimed in a statement that agencies had asked for the move. It did not respond to Mumbrella’s question about whether the entry fees – priced at more than $400 per entry – would be refunded.

“We’re grateful for the many outstanding AC&E entries to date and acknowledge the commitment it takes to complete an award entry,” he said in a statement to Mumbrella. “As advised to all parties already, ADMA has decided to postpone the AC&E Awards after requests from agencies to extend the deadline. We are absolutely committed to the development and recognition of the combination of creativity and effectiveness in campaigns and will provide updates on the new dates shortly. All those involved, including the board and all agencies who submitted an entry were notified yesterday, We look forward to showcasing the amazing creative talent that will be surfaced in due course.”

The cancellation of the 2018 event is the latest in a string of changes at the industry organisation.

The upheaval appeared to begin when long-serving CEO Jodie Sangster departed ADMA and its parent organisation AADL in March 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 Porgess 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 last month, 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.

At the same time, industry awards programs have been under increased pressure.

In March, the Media Federation of Australia (MFA) cancelled its awards for 2018, 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. Last year, a Mumbrella investigation 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.

It is not the first time that ADMA has cancelled an awards ceremony after accepting entries. In 2016, after ADMA took over collapsed industry body AIMIA – the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association – ADMA cancelled the awards gala.


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