I believe American media company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was right on the money when it decided to use the Latin phrase: “Ars gratia artis” as its motto. Rendered in English as “art for art’s sake”, the expression coins that true art is valuable as, just that, art, and shouldn’t need any high-minded justification. Unfortunately, this utopian concept does not translate well in our industry. But, perhaps, it is something to aspire to when creating work.
Award shows have provided our industry with a very important currency; one that is based on celebrating creativity and ideas that achieve the goals of our clients. However, recently, this currency seems to be manipulated by agencies for which the sole concern is to garner awards in their name. More often than not, we see campaigns that are created for the sake of submission purposes, rather than to celebrate ideas and results. And even though some award shows might judge you on your results, there still lacks a verification process so that agencies don’t falsify their sources – which happens quite often.
Such agencies in question create work that does not ‘work’ and/or that hasn’t been executed. This is what prompted some international award shows to put extra parameters in place, such as dictating the approval of clients as a pre-requisite for entry submission, to avoid such deception. Unfortunately, our politically flawed system is still allowing awards to stray from their original purpose and has, sometimes, given our regional shows a bad reputation.
It would be easy to forget the fundamentals that make an award matter to a business in the midst of new award shows flocking to the scene every year. So, when do awards really add value to our business and clients? In 2010, a report from trade organization IPA claimed that creatively awarded campaigns are 11 times more effective than campaigns that aren’t. The report claimed to have examined 213 case studies of advertising over eight years to reach those results, but failed to specify what type of awards its study referred to.
I disagree with such vague findings, as I do not believe awards always add value to our business or to that of our clients. As a matter of fact, it all really comes down to each tier of awards. When Starcom MediaVest Group enters a show, we always benchmark its credibility. And, in this regard, one of its most important gauges is the judging panel. I see the more international the jury is, the more unbiased the judging can be. An international panel is more exposed to multicultural work, as opposed to an only local one that might be subjective toward work with which it is familiar. Our region occasionally criticizes an international jury, as it feels the latter might not understand our cultural connotations. However, respectable award shows make sure local experts are present to assist such panels understand the underlying culture and norms of the region.
Furthermore, because most of our regional award shows are associated with their global counterparts, their credibility is at stake. Therefore, they must ensure that conflict of interest is eliminated from any judging panel to ensure a fair process. There are many situations when a brand is sponsoring an entire category of an award show, all the while having its own campaigns in that same category – or having someone on the judging panel that also works for the same brand he/she is judging. Usually, such people are asked not to judge work with which they are affiliated. Yet, we can always question if such percussions are carried out consistently.
I am a firm believer that campaigns are there to serve one purpose, and that is to help clients grow their businesses, connect to their consumers and achieve their goals. As for awards, they should always be aspirational. However, they are not meant to be the sole drive behind creativity. They will come down to the judges that judge them, the agencies that enter them, the ads that promote them and the clients that know them. Awards should always serve their true purpose, which is, act as a testament for good work. Whether you are a creative or media agency, we are in the business of creating ideas. And those ideas need to be rewarded, but only when they serve their intention. At the end of the day, award shows are a system, and it is up to you to use or abuse it.