CAMPAIGN CRAFT: THE CREATIVE ISSUE; Have awards become a poor currency within the industry?

Young creatives are not as driven by awards as their elders were.

Young creatives are not as driven by awards as their elders were.

People complain about awards until they win one themselves, according to

received wisdom.

Of course, we all relish recognition and applause from our peers, and

awards have an important place in the advertising calendar. But, it

seems, many younger creatives are now less driven by the prospect of

that moment of Grosvenor House glory than their predecessors were a few

years ago.

Mark Wnek, the executive creative director of Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper,

remembers every detail about where he was and what he was doing when he

first found out that one of his ads had been given a place in the D&AD

annual. As a young creative, it meant more to him than winning pencils

did later in his career.

Now, when looking to hire teams, Wnek looks purely at the ads they have

done, and claims not to be swayed by the number of awards listed on

their CVs.

Of course, teams have ads to illustrate their creativity and prove how

hard-working and successful they are, but most creative directors don’t

get much chance to keep their hand in on the writing or art directing

front. Awards are a way for them to justify their existence, and get a

pat on the back from their colleagues on the board.

John O’Sullivan, a creative director of Mortimer Whittaker O’Sullivan,

takes an extreme view. He says: ‘Awards are irrelevant. I’ve won loads

but I don’t enter them any more. I don’t want those people judging my

work. What’s the point?’

Mike Cozens, the creative director of Young and Rubicam, does see a

point to it all. ‘Awards are still the only way to make a name for

yourself in this business,’ he says, ‘especially at the start of your

career, when you need to establish yourself.’

However, he is strict about the number of awards his agency enters,

sticking only to those sanctioned by the Creative Directors’ Forum.

Cozens does concede that his positive attitude is related to Y&R’s

successes at last year’s Campaign Poster and British Television

Advertising Awards. He admits: ‘You only notice them when you’re winning


At a Simons Palmer Clemmow Johnson board meeting two years ago, the

directors discussed pulling out of the awards rat-race entirely. The

suggestion came after the agency had experienced a lean time on the

awards front.

In the end, though, the directors decided that there was something of an

industry backlash against Simons Palmer, which would pass, provided the

agency continued to do good work.

Paul Hodgkinson, a joint creative director at Simons Palmer, says: ‘We

discussed whether or not we needed awards. In the end, we decided they

do matter - awards are a good currency in this business, and without

them, you would spend years in the creative wilderness.’

Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe is widely admired as a successful young

agency that does good creative work and attracts top calibre staff, but

its reputation has been built without a stream of awards.

Andy Blood, an art director at the agency, says: ‘We all want to win

awards, but there are a lot of good ads that don’t win, and plenty of

poor ones that do. I know when I’ve done a good bit of work, and I’m not

too driven by awards.’

Blood’s boss, Mark Roalfe, a creative partner at Rainey Kelly, agrees

that his young teams are not as ‘awardist’ as he was in the early stages

of his career.

‘Perhaps it is because I have won my share of awards, but I do think

they matter less and less,’ Roalfe says. ‘Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury

changed the rules when its Tango work, which everyone loved, didn’t win

a thing.

‘Awards tend to go to small-budget stuff that doesn’t count, while big-

budget work is generally not up its own arse enough to win awards.’

Roalfe has looked through a lot of books recently in search of a new

creative team to hire. He stresses: ‘One award-winning ad does not make

a great book. We are more interested in someone who can come up with

good, big campaign ideas.’

With the introduction this year of the British Television Advertising

Craft Awards, yet another event has been added to the calendar. Although

this is a chance to honour the craftsmen and technicians who go

unrecognised at most ceremonies, the BTACA still increases the number of

awards, and therefore risks diluting their overall prestige.

Revealingly, although the BTACA awards will go to named individuals,

most of the entries have come from advertising agencies and production

companies, all eager to lay claim to industry accolades one way or


As Roalfe puts it: ‘Awards seem to be a necessary evil - everyone has a

gripe with them, but we all still enter.’


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