THE REAL POINT OF AWARDS
Ages ago, Gordon Smith was a juror at the Kinsale Awards in Ireland.
The chairman was Ian Hutton.
At all awards, the chairman traditionally gives a speech explaining the criteria for judging.
Usually he instructs the jury to be fair and even-handed, to encourage creativity, declare an interest where relevant, to balance craft excellence against commercial success, and so on and so on.
Gordon said Hutton just stood up and, in his deep Irish accent, said “Right, you all know the rules: vote for your mates, and none of that wanky ironic shite.”
Then he sat down.
For the first time a completely honest summation of what goes on at awards judging.
Subjectivity masquerading as objectivity.
Advertising awards aren’t the Olympics, where the stopwatch decides who the winner is.
You simply vote for what you personally like.
Then afterwards you try to dress it up with a rational argument.
But actually, it’s just what you like.
It’s even the same at the IPA Effectiveness Awards.
One year at GGT, Damien O’Malley won several thousand pounds for a campaign that lots of people had worked on.
I asked Damien why he didn’t share the money with everyone.
Damien said it was the quality of the paper that’s been written, not just the work, that wins the award.
And as he wrote the paper, he was keeping the money.
So again, subjectivity.
Even at the massive international awards shows.
Earlier this year, the worldwide creative head of DDB accused the Cannes jury of a plot to give the overall award to “anyone but Omnicom”.
He said “I have been notified by no fewer than 12 jury members that people from other holding companies were briefed to kill Omnicom, especially BBDO, DDB and TBWA, this is a fact.”
He explained that this was the only reason that WPP won.
He thundered that what was at stake was “the integrity and responsibility of The Cannes Lions Festival as a beacon of excellence around the world.”
So this guy’s taking awards very seriously.
Obviously his job depends on winning awards.
But given that we all know awards don’t mean much, how can that be?
Why does anyone care who wins them?
They don’t necessarily go to the ads that put up sales most, or the ones the public like best, or the ones that get most free publicity.
So why do so many people act as if they matter?
And, more importantly, why do successful agencies win more awards?
The illusion is that clients want to work with award-winning agencies.
That’s why the Gunn Report exists.
But I don’t think that’s the real story.
I think what happens is that the best people want to work at award-winning agencies.
And the best people win more business, just because they’re the best.
So I think the point of awards is to attract the best people.
Awards aren’t really anything to do with clients or their business.
Awards are simply a great recruitment tool for ad agencies.
The best people are naturally more competitive.
They want to be seen to be working at the best agency.
So how does an agency create an image like that?
Certainly awards can help in promoting an aura of success.
And an image as an award-winning agency means a better chance of winning awards next year.
So it’s pretty simple.
Awards attract the best people.
And the best people win more accounts.
So awards actually are good business.