12:33PM January 29 2013

Awards. What are they good for?

There are two clear positions on the value of awards:

They’re a waste of time, a vanity exercise for the agency.


They set standards, push the agency to produce better work, and celebrate success.

Over the years I’ve probably held both these points of view and the truth’s somewhere in the middle. Often it comes down to the integrity of the award itself. There are plenty that exist purely to profit out of an agency’s need to be loved. They’re not about promoting quality or celebrating great work, they’re about flogging sponsorship and advertising space. I’ve no time for these.

And then there is the integrity of the agency to consider. Once your objective is to win awards instead of solving your client’s problem, you’ve crossed a line. And it will catch up with you. You may get a couple of champagne soaked nights out of it, but sooner or later your client’s going to call you and say ‘You know that giant ice onion we got Damien Hirst to sculpt in Waterloo station? Well it didn’t sell any onions.’

So they’re a waste of time? Well, no, the right ones can work for you.

There’s a definite motivational benefit to awards. Creatives are in this business to do the best work they can. And once you’ve made it up on that stage and been applauded by your peers, you want to get back up there as quickly as possible. You’ll put in the hours, you’ll work as hard as you can, you’ll make the most out of every brief to reproduce that momentary amazing feeling.

It’s the Creative Director’s and Client Director’s jobs to make sure that they’re always in service of delivering for the client. But, there’s no doubt, the thought that the campaign you’re slaving over might be worthy of an award is an incredible motivator. For the client, an award is validation of their judgement. Sometimes we forget that every time they give us money to do something, they’re taking a risk, and the bigger the idea, the bigger the risk. So, when you do something different and it pays off, in both results and industry accolades, it’s a great feeling to know that you were right. That you were right to trust your agency.  Unbreakable client-agency bonds have been forged in the post-award-self-congratulatory afterglow.

So I admit it, I can’t help but love awards, and love winning them, because we’re wired to seek out praise, but don’t ever try and craft an ‘award-winner’, just do your best to deliver for the client and maybe, just maybe, a bunch of people you don’t know might decide to give you a trophy for it.

Posted by: at 12:33pm January 29 2013 | Permalink