Let’s end the awards obsession and stop putting our dollars in the hands of publishers

ian perrinIn this guest post, Ian Perrin, CEO of media agency ZO, calls for the industry to boycott trade press awards in favour of a single night organised by the agencies themselves 

We are in the business of promoting companies through the brands that we represent.

It’s a brilliant job and we should all be proud of what we do. However, I wonder if we should be proud of the image that our own industry has in the eyes of our clients. I say this based on a conversation I recently had with a prominent and influential CMO.

His contention was that his agencies are not totally focused on what they should be focused on; his brand. While he was comfortable that his partner agencies were doing a good job, he lamented their commitment to their core responsibility.

“I am so sick to death of being asked to submit our work into bloody award festivals that nobody has ever heard of, or cares about. If I went into a board presentation and declared that we had won a bronze in a Tasmanian advertising awards festival, I would be fired on the spot. And yet all my agencies seem to care about is entering these awards” he said. “Who cares if the Tasmanian’s loved my print ad, when I still have stock on the shelf at Coles?”

He wasn’t against awards and agreed that it was good that his agency aspired to be the very best at what they do, but it was the absolute volume that concerned him. And it was genuinely difficult to disagree. Not only do we have millions of craft awards festivals, but then we use those as a basis to substantiate the end of year agency of the year awards.

And not being done there, we even have rankings that collate all of the awards that have already been given.

What he didn’t know, (fortunately!) was the cost of doing this. Entry involves huge head hour outlays, creative development costs, award entry fees, and the obligatory table at the awards dinner.

So here is my solution. We all agree as the communications industry to stop entering ALL local awards shows. (I say local because in my humble view, benchmarking yourself against the best in the world at Cannes is actually a good thing) We agree on one Über award night that is run by the Communications Council and the MFA, with awards for the best craft work, the most effective solutions and recognize which agencies are deserving of “the best title”.

We should award these ourselves and be proud of those who we believe were better than us that year. And perhaps most importantly we should make it really expensive, allowing us to re-invest the entry fees into development and training. We will, after all, be saving money by not entering so many awards.

I think this is a solution that gives us one big night to celebrate the best of what we do, and also put the dollars we invest in awards back into our own pockets, rather than those of the publishers. We’ll have more time to focus on our core responsibility, the brands, and it might make the prominent CMO happy too.


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