Friday, September 4, 2009

At least everything doesn't have to be mounted opn 20 x 30 board anymore


Well, awards season is here.

So all around the country, ad-folk will be rounding up judges to do our shows, trying to decide on a budget for entry fees, scrounging up the artwork for that stuff we did in January, working out whether this or that is spongeworthy and, in some cases, getting busy with something shocking and totally outrageous that a client would never pay for and never run but, hey, it might win something.

There is a great call for entries I saw a few years ago along the lines of "Awards shows are bogus. The judges are hacks. The big agencies always win everything. Nobody cares about awards anyway. I won? Cool!" Or something like that. Point is, your opinion of awards shows sometimes has something to do with whether or not you've ever won anything.

Just for the record, we have. We have them scattered around the office leaning up against the walls in what I like to call "studied indifference". I like to win awards. (Also for the record, so nobody has to run to last year's Addy book to check, we didn't a thing last year. We didn't enter anything. I didn't think we had anything good enough to enter and wanted to force myself to remember the feeling or not even entering.)

But there is still a lot wrong with awards shows. In some cases, it's more about making money than it is about promoting creative excellence. You've probably heard me sing this song before. That's the approach that begets work being entered in a handful of categories and winning over and over for, essentially, one idea. I've never been a fan of that. I think you should be allowed to enter something as a single and as part of a campaign and that's it. None of this transit-and-magazine-and-newspaper-and direct mail-and-P.O.P.-and on and on.

Seems to me that what gets rewarded is the size of the media budget not the size of the idea.

About 10 years ago, a local agency won three or four awards for an invitation to the annual AudioMaster party. It was a Linda Tripp-based poster they mailed out - which meant they could enter it as a poster, an invitation and a direct mail piece. It was a great idea, but winning three Addys for it was a bit much.

Then there's stuff like the DDB Brazil ad below that apparently won recognition in the One Show. There is a lot out there in blog-dom about it, and I don't know all the actual details. Like whether or not it only ran once in a local paper as reported, whether the agency really did it or people at the agency did, but I do know that it was not a legit ad. And yet, it won a legit award.

I remember a few years ago at the DC Addys, the Best of Show went to a lovely four-color, full-page campaign for a tiny little one-off retail store. The story was, the agency paid for the whole thing including media placement. When EPB was still around, they used to enter all kinds of stuff that seemed pretty iffy - ads for an Ashley Whippet Frisbee contest and a sign reminding people to do their time sheets come to mind. And about four years ago someone actually won an award for a Holiday card, of which they payoff was "Fuck Bin Laden." The national shows usually have tons of that kind of stuff.

Dog and Pony Show has a cool post about what to do about phony ads. Basically ban the agencies that enter them. And the Denver Egoist has a good post about awards shows in general.

(Of course, when bizzaro stuff like that Wranglers campaign wins awards, it kind of makes you wonder about the whole thing.)

Understand, I love creativity, and I think it should be rewarded. I just think it ought to be recognized in a proper category: Work We Just Did On Our Own. After all, most shows have a Best Ad That Never Ran category already. I just think work you do for a bogus client is not advertising. It's art.

Overall, I'm not sure what-all is exactly Not Right about the awards show concept. I know there are too many shows, they cost too much to enter, the events cost too much to attend, the point ought to be about the work and not just making money and people will pull all kinds of shameless shenanigans to win something.

I know this too.Whether it's cheating when you enter or complaining when you don't win, awards shows just don't always seem to bring out the best of our industry.

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