WHERE DO YOU KEEP YOURS?: We all like to win awards, but no-one likes a smug git. So how do you make sure people know how hot your work is, without getting up their noses, Emma Hall wonders

Forget the fast cars, flash suits and foreign trips. Awards are the only real status symbols of the advertising industry.

Any creative who tells you he or she has never dreamed of winning a D&AD Pencil is lying. Some may be more obsessed than others, but all crave the permanent ego-massage of the trophy that says: "You've made it."

But once the dream has come true and the celebratory hangover has subsided, what should you do with the trophy itself? Assuming, that is, you have managed to cart it home from the party and didn't leave it with an ice-cream vendor on La Croisette.

The Americans, never ashamed of success, seem to have cornered the market in imaginative displays. However, in the UK, with the exception of Mark Denton and the apocryphal tale of the man who turned his D&AD Pencils into mini hi-fi speakers, the mood is much more low-key.

With the luxury of so many awards to play with, Rosie Arnold, the group creative head at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, has found a variety of uses for her stash of trophies. Gold Lions make great doorstops, allowing her children to run around the house unimpeded by the need to open and close doors. When clearing out her attic recently, Arnold found some British Television Arrows. "They mean a lot to me and I don't want to throw them away, she says, "but with two boys, they are too dangerous to keep around the house."

Arnold continues: "It's a very British mix. You don't want to look too boastful but at the same time you do have the urge to pick them up and say: 'Look, I am good.' She compromises by displaying only the most recent prizes in her office. "Awards definitely have a shelf life, she says.

Talking of shelves, J. Walter Thompson's flagship new office features an impressive awards showcase in the heart of the reception area. The multi-coloured, multi-dimensional, 30-foot-tall awards display was part of the integral design of the building from the earliest stages of development. But, Simon Bolton, the agency's chief executive, says: "It's not intended to be heavy. It's not an altar to bow in front of. It's an acknowledgement that we're in a business with a strong competitive thrust, and awards are a part of that."

In BMP DDB's reception, a 2002 Cannes gold Lion is proudly on display, accompanied by framed artwork of the winning ad. "It's a PR thing, the creative director, Larry Barker, explains. "We put up whatever's recent and good."

On closer inspection, however, it appears that the much-honoured agency has been doing a little awards doctoring of its own.

The Lion on display is an impostor. It has mysteriously lost its base (which carries an inscription of the winner's details) and was, in fact, won a few years ago, although no-one remembers what for. The Lion was plundered from the office of Ruth, one of the creative secretaries, who had been using it as a doorstop.

The real 2002 gold Lion is sitting proudly in the offices of its rightful owners, Justin Tindall and Adam Tucker, alongside their latest One Show Pencils and Grand Clios. Tindall and Tucker are openly proud of their awards, although the perspex regional press prizes do tend to get shunted toward the back of the display.

John Webster, BMP's executive creative director, has won so many awards that he had to make a cull of all pre-1982 gongs so that he could clear some room on his shelves. He chose 1982 as the landmark year because that was when he won his favourite award, a black D&AD Pencil.

"I keep them in the office because they don't mean anything to people at home, Webster insists. However, he also finds them a useful tool at work: "They give me confidence - when someone walks in to my office they listen to what I say. When an account man wants to turn down my script, he thinks twice."

The trophies, Webster says wearily, "do become a nuisance. They take up room, collect dust and become tarnished. And they are so ugly - the Irish one are the worst. I've got one that is supposed to be a plastic moulding of Mercury, the winged messenger, but it looks more like a garden gnome."

He does keep his two President's Awards (one from BTAA and one from D&AD) at home, because, he says, "they are old men's awards so I think it's best to hide them".

Tom Carty, a director at Gorgeous, has kept only one of his many awards, but this one has nothing to do with advertising - it's a tacky trophy he won for coming first in his family's fantasy football league. "I'm proud of my work and it's nice to be recognised, but I don't feel the need to show off the awards, he says. "I give them all to my mum. She likes them. She hangs them up and whatever."

Steve Henry, the founder and creative director of HHCL & Partners, won a BAFTA for Danepak bacon ten years ago, which sits proudly on his mantelpiece at home. "It's there just to confuse people, he explains. "It freaks them out."

When his showbiz friends come round, they are mightily impressed by the virtuoso talents of Henry, whom they had previously mistaken for a plain adman. They forget that one year BAFTA decided, in Henry's words, "to make some money out of the advertising industry".

As for the rest of Henry's awards collection, they are out of sight. Even the black D&AD Pencil is "up in a room I don't use much".

Nobody at HHCL is encouraged to display their awards at work. "It's nice to win awards and get pissed, but making too much of them sends out the wrong message to clients, Henry says.

Why not blow your own trumpet? Are the bashful Brits suffering from "tall poppy syndrome? Or is it the fear of being seen as a dinosaur, clinging to past glories when you should be keeping ahead of the game? Perhaps a formal display is unnecessary when a strategically placed cardboard box will do?

Tony McTear and Mark Hunter, the Bartle Bogle Hegarty team that won four D&AD Pencils for Levi's "twist", have a different reason entirely for keeping their awards hidden.

McTear says: "We kept looking at the black Pencil and thinking 'oh my God'. We had to keep our feet on the ground, so we put all the awards in a cupboard, which we only open up when things are going badly."

MARK DENTON - director, Blink

Forget false modesty or the casual nonchalance of the creative award-winner who eschews dramatic displays of success. "Bold is best," Mark Denton declares.

"I've never been hampered by being cool - you shouldn't let it get in the way of expressing yourself, he insists.

Denton's awards are proudly displayed on an oversized mantelpiece in his sitting room. But this is no ordinary over-sized mantlepiece. This mantelpiece was hand-crafted for him by a cabinet-maker friend who works in the atelier of Viscount Linley. The final touches were added by the sculptor Ron Mueck (creator of the half-sized Dead Dad that featured in Charles Saatchi's Sensations exhibition), who crafted a series of griffin heads to adorn the structure.

"It's painted like fake marble, Denton expands. "It looks like a mausoleum. He has no time for the agency "cool cats", who chuck their awards in cardboard boxes which are "inadvertently left open by the door so that everyone can see inside.

Denton has no such pretensions to false modesty. "Why be cool? Denton asks. "I'm happy when I win a Creative Circle bronze. I know it's only advertising but it's what we do. If you've got it, flaunt it - I may never win again."

Mind you, he does go on to add modestly: "It's not as if I get any visitors, so I'm not showing off. When I see a crap ad on the telly I like to look up at the mantelpiece and think, 'those were the days'."

CLIFF FREEMAN & PARTNERS

The long hallway leading to Cliff Freeman & Partners' New York reception is littered with awards, strewn casually along the path like rubbish that has been kicked out of the way.

It all began innocently enough. When the agency opened its doors in 1987, an awards table was placed in the reception area. "I don't know what I was thinking of, Cliff Freeman, the agency's founder, says. "The table was built specially, but I chose a size that looked good instead of going for something practical."

The table was full up with its founders' awards before the agency had even got started. So when the trophies kept coming in, they spilt over; first on to the floor and then down along the corridor.

"We got a big laugh because people thought it was so irreverent," Freeman says. "It wasn't contrived; we stumbled on to something and it worked in a positive way."

Freeman happily admits that the order of display itself is contrived.

He makes damn sure that the greatest and most recent gongs are always on the table, but hopes he has avoided what he calls the "self-aggrandisement implied by traditional trophy cases.

As the awards have kept rolling in, however, the corridor itself is now full up. "We'll just have to start going back up the other way, Freeman suggests happily.

GROUND ZERO

Ground Zero's awards go straight into the bin. Not any old bin, of course, but one of three tailor-made giant trash cans that take pride of place in the agency's Santa Monica reception area.

"There's a saying in this country that goes, 'what have you done for me today?', Jim Smith, Ground Zero's chairman, explains. "It's like saying today's news is tomorrow's fish-and- chips wrapper. Awards are transitory - it doesn't mean you've cracked it just because you've won an award."

"But we're not soft, Smith says.

"We make sure that the awards on show at the top of the bins are the best and most recent ones. Third place at the Iowa farming awards are not given pride of place.

"We're not trying to hide our awards, we're proud of them, but the trash cans keep us honest, Smith adds.

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