MFA Awards return after 12-month break, accompanied by effectiveness expo to address criteria concerns

Following the cancellation of last year’s Media Federation of Australia (MFA) Awards due to issues with criteria centred on recognising effectiveness, the MFA has announced the awards will return this year, with “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. MFA-member media agencies boycotted domestic awards last year to show solidarity towards the MFA’s pause of its awards program, and are similarly supporting their return, and the addition of MFA EX. Sydney media agencies will shut down on 17 October to attend the daytime expo and awards ceremony that night.

“The MFA Awards have a long history of celebrating the most creative, effective media thinking in Australia. But after two decades, we felt it was important to reset our objectives and create an entirely new awards program and event that shifted our focus to media effectiveness and business outcomes for clients,” said Sophie Madden, CEO of the MFA.

“The revamped MFA Awards incorporate feedback from over 800 individuals across media agencies, media owners and advertisers – making the MFA awards a true industry awards program, designed by the people whose work we are celebrating.”

MFA CEO Sophie Madden

In order to transform the judging process, the MFA explained that there will be “a 50% weighting towards results, greater qualification of media specifically, and the opportunity to request additional information and clarification”. It also promised diverse and publicly announced judging panels, feedback on all entries, and a blind vote through a third-party to choose a winner.

In its new criteria, the MFA stated: “To ensure a highly rigorous judging process, entrants across all categories must provide detailed KPIs for the campaign activity; demonstrate delivery against these KPIs; and discount or account for the impact of external factors beyond media e.g. promotions, pricing, distribution, change in media spend etc.

“Benchmarks for all KPIs and results must also be supplied – relative to the category and/or historical brand performance – to quantify the true scale of the impact. Judges will also have the opportunity to submit questions for clarification or additional data from entrants as part of the judging process.”

The media agency shutdown, announced at the same time as the awards’ return, will enable employees of Sydney agencies to attend the 20+ sessions at MFA EX.

“This is an important event for our industry, which is why we’ve agreed on an agency shutdown to ensure everyone is there to learn from best practice and to celebrate the most creative, effective media thinking in Australia,” Peter Horgan, CEO of Omnicom Media Group (home to agencies including OMD and PHD) and the MFA’s chair, said.

This year’s ceremony will also see just 19 awards handed out – a reduction from 26 in previous years. The MFA said that this “more focused” category list will be split into three new pillars: outcomes, execution, and people and community. The industry verticals previously used have also been scrapped, replaced with the categories of brand impact, commercial impact, behaviour change, bravery, and long-term transformation.

Joe Lunn, MFA Awards Chair

“By creating and combining these two events [the MFA Awards and MFA EX], we now have a platform to showcase the work and the value we bring to our client partners,” said Joe Lunn, chief strategy officer of Mindshare and the MFA Awards chair.

“We’re giving everyone a voice to educate and inspire our industry to deliver world-class effectiveness; and then celebrating the very best work that has done exactly that.”

The MFA’s cancellation of last year’s awards was the culmination of a period of controversy. A 2017 Mumbrella investigation revealed that Atomic 212 and its CEO, Jason Dooris, made exaggerated and misleading claims in award submissions. Following the investigation, Dooris departed the agency.

MFA members boycotted the AdNews Awards (at which Atomic 212 had won) in response to perceived failings in how the awards were judged, forcing AdNews to pause its media agency categories.

At the time the MFA Awards were cancelled last year, Horgan acknowledged the impact of the Atomic 212 scandal on awards, but said the pause related more to resources and the “never-ending list of awards programs with multiple categories, sub-categories and new entrants coming into the market”.


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