Doing work just to win awards? That’s worth nothing

Tim Lindsey

D&AD CEO Tim Lindsay argues scam is a disease and doing work to just win awards is worth nothing.

You would expect us to say this, but it has been an exciting year at D&AD. With the help of the Glue Society, Google and others we’ve brought New Blood to Australian shores for the first time, launched our new NowCreate programme and forged new partnerships with creative organisations around the world – such as AWARD – to enable us to better support the global creative community. It has been a good year.

However, as much as we’d like to focus on all the positives about our wonderful business, it’s important we don’t stick our head in the sand and ignore the more difficult stuff.

A major issue facing us all is the role we play – in particular as design and advertising practitioners – in encouraging an unsustainable exploitation of the planet’s resources. In a small way, through the White Pencil and other programs, we and others across the industry are encouraging the notions that business can ‘do well by doing good’; that design and communication can be a powerful force in encouraging behaviour change.

There’s another elephant in the room too. Scam. A problem that has troubled the industry since the first trophies were handed out and something that has made for a fiery topic of debate over the past few months.

D&AD New Pencil Line-up 2015We see scam ads as the equivalent of drug taking in cycling and athletics.

Everybody knows it goes on. Sometimes, drugs can produce ‘winners’. But their presence creates a culture of suspicion, leaves a bad taste in the mouth and, frankly, makes the whole thing a waste of everyone’s time.

It’s an issue that D&AD and the other global shows have become much better at addressing. We check entries against four questions. Is it for a real product? Was it a proper client brief? Did it run/was it commercially available? And did the client pay for it? And we require the senior creative person in the entering company to sign off the entry, effectively swearing that the answers to all the above are affirmative.

Juries have become much more vigilant too. They know it’s in no one’s interests to award the wrong work – it makes us all look pretty dumb. But the more prestigious, coveted and valuable an award to an agency or a career, the more likely there are to be a few people looking to take a shortcut.

So while, yes, I do think we as an industry are getting better at weeding out scam, we can’t pat ourselves on the back just yet, not by any means. As technology advances and our business changes, new grey areas appear and need to be clarified. Indeed, some senior and respected figures have even questioned whether, in certain leading edge tech categories, scam should be allowed as a means of encouraging experimentation and innovation.

We don’t agree. Scam is a disease. It devalues real work and breeds cynicism and bad feeling. It makes us look a little silly too in the eyes of the business world and turns what should be a celebration of excellence into a tedious set-to about eligibility.

Quite honestly, it’s boring. Especially when there is so much to be proud of and excited about. Our industry is changing – not least because it’s becoming populated by a generation of practitioners who want some purpose in their professional lives and who have a strong sense of right and wrong regarding the uses to which our remarkable skills are put. Doing work that aspires to true excellence because that’s how to make it optimally effective? That’s worth a lot. Doing work just to win awards? That’s worth nothing.

  • Tim Lindsay is the chief executive of D&AD.

The closing date for entry for the D&AD Awards has been extended to February 25. For more information click here.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.