MFA agencies to boycott domestic awards for 12 months

Media agencies which are part of industry body the Media Federation of Australia (MFA) are being discouraged from entering domestic awards programs for 12 months.

Mumbrella understands the ‘pause’ only applies to local awards programs, with many agencies still required by their international counterparts to participate in overseas awards programs including the Cannes Lions. Sources have told Mumbrella that all the major media holding groups, bar one, have agreed to participate in the ban as profit-stretched agencies look to better allocate their resources.

Yesterday, the industry body announced it was pausing its own awards program and taking 12 months out to re-evaluate how it measures success.

Various industry leaders, including Omnicom Media Group’s CEO Peter Horgan – who also chairs the MFA – and Brett Dawson from M&C Saatchi’s Bohemia, have since taken to LinkedIn to announce the initiative will also extend to awards programs competing with the MFA Awards too.

“MFA today announced that it will pause its 2018 Awards to reset and refocus on client effectiveness,” Horgan said on LinkedIn. “Omnicom Media Group agencies are supporting this initiative and will be pausing all domestic awards for the next 12 months to help focus on this industry re-calibration.”

Omnicom’s media agencies include OMD and PHD.

In a similarly worded statement, Dawson said: “As a board director of the MFA I am proud to say that today the MFA announced that it will pause its 2018 Award Program to reset and refocus this pinnacle event on client effectiveness. Bohemia are supporting this initiative and will be pausing all domestic awards for the next 12 months and we will focus our effort on this important industry reset and a double down on effectiveness.”

The news follows 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 CEO, Jason Dooris in various award entries. Two months after the investigation, Dooris departed the agency, which is an MFA member.

As a result of perceived failings in the handling of the AdNews Awards judging, which Atomic won, MFA members engineered a boycott of the publication’s awards, forcing the publication to cancel its media agency categories. AdNews will present the winners in its remaining awards categories next week.

Whilst conceding there was an issue with awards in light of the Atomic 212 scandal, Horgan claimed the 12-month break had more to do with resources and the “never-ending list of awards programs with multiple categories, sub-categories and new entrants coming into the market”. This, he said, means agencies “are not in control of our own resources here and we’re not pointing them at the best outcomes for clients”.

Horgan: Banning his agencies from entering local awards

Clients, Horgan claimed, are tired of the obsession with awards programs, and when MFA agencies return to next year’s awards season, it could be very much scaled back.

“A 12-month pause allows us to a focus our strategic capability on rebooting the MFA Awards around what’s important to clients and what keeps clients up at night, which is their own performance, and how do we best utilise that resource going forward?

“And that may manifest itself in a more distilled list of domestic awards.”

Horgan insisted the MFA was not forcing any agencies’ hands, and claimed each group could make its own decision.

“Again I’ve got to stress that the pulling out of awards is not an MFA initiative. The MFA initiative was to reboot our awards… It’s a commercial decision for individual agencies thereafter to work out how they’re going to support that program and how they’re going to reallocate resources.”

Among the questionable awards won by Atomic, Jason Dooris beat Horgan to the title of agency head of the year in the Campaign Asia Pacific Awards. And OMG agency OMD went public on its anger with AdNews over the process which saw it beaten by Atomic for the title of media agency of the year.

Back in June, Publicis Groupe told staff it was pulling out of all awards programs in 2018 – including Cannes Lions – to instead pour resources into Marcel, the group’s artificial intelligence-powered professional assistant platform.


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