Can awards shows remain relevant?

The decision of the Cannes Lions organisers to bestow their prestigious Lion of St Mark on Bob Greenberg must have raised a few wry smiles. It was less than a year ago that the founder of R/GA found himself in the firing line for visualising a time when scam ads - the perpetual scourge of awards events such as Cannes - might be accepted for judging if they were innovative enough.

But while many believe such a change would undermine the industry’s credibility, there is a growing feeling that awards will struggle to recognise the achievements of the eclectic mix of people with a wide range of backgrounds – such as programme-making, animation, website design and even video games – now to be found in agency creative departments.

Those running Cannes Lions have reacted by extending the number of categories. This year’s festival will have 16 – too many, according to critics – as well as Lions Innovation and Lions Health. But are increasingly bloated ad fests really the answer? Or does the definition of creativity – and how it should be recognised – need to be rethought?

Tim Lindsay, chief executive, D&ADAwards chief

Tim Lindsay, chief executive, D&AD

"All awards organisers are trying to keep pace with the changing nature of creativity – and not always successfully.

But it’s equally true that we all have businesses to run – even though all D&AD’s profits are ploughed back into the industry – and that, like agencies, we can’t just adapt overnight.

Although we have to be conservative and cautious, we constantly evaluate our categories – adding new ones, amalgamating or scrapping others. And we have staff to help people find the right category for their work.

There will always be an appropriate category for them, whatever their specialism."

Caitlin Ryan, group executive creative director, KarmaramaCreative chief

Caitlin Ryan, group executive creative director, Karmarama

"In defining their own brands, the awards shows are defining what creativity is. And because awards shows are also businesses, there’s always a good reason to add another category.

Once upon a time, you knew what particular awards stood for. Now it has become something of an expensive lottery for agencies.

The result is that big networks and big campaigns will always have the advantage over small start-ups and that the most creative work won’t necessarily win.

But we have to be pragmatic and, as awards shows better define themselves, so agencies will be better able to decide which ones they enter."

Gerry Moira, chairman and director of creativity, Havas Worldwide LondonCreative chief

Gerry Moira, chairman and director of creativity, Havas Worldwide London

"You could argue that the awards system needs to proliferate to accommodate the changing facets of creativity. Or, conversely, that there’s a need to retrench and rethink.

The trouble is the first argument will always prevail. Agencies are now locked in an arms race called The Gunn Report, where league-winning performances are used to convince clients to award business.

Also, award-winning campaigns have always had their unsung heroes, from the planners who planned them to the account people who sold them.

And, with so many more specialists involved in the creative process, that’s always going to be the case."

Tim Mellors, creative partner, Pointblank; former worldwide creative director, Grey GroupCreative chief

Tim Mellors, creative partner, Pointblank; former worldwide creative director, Grey Group

"It’s very difficult to know how much awards are an accurate yardstick of creativity because who can say where creativity starts and where it ends? I certainly don’t know.

But I don’t think it’s wrong for awards shows to introduce new categories such as healthcare – where some good work is taking place, much of it under very difficult strictures.

What’s more, creative specialists can so easily be overlooked. Such things as sound design have become so important while music production used to be taken for granted.

As technology evolves, these specialists deserve to be recognised."

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