CAMPAIGN CRAFT: FORUM - Does winning awards give you a business edge?

Ole Sanders, Producer, Traktor

Ole Sanders, Producer, Traktor

After making commercials for a few years it becomes increasingly

difficult to go home to the tundra for the Nordic Christmas


There is always the inevitable croak from Aunt Gunnar: ’Are you still

making those dreadful adverts? When are you going to make a proper

movie? I really hated the commercial where you spank the little


So it helps to be able to respond hesitantly: ’Yes, Aunt Gunnar, we are

still making commercials, but we did win another couple of Gold Lions in

Cannes this year!’

And you can sense the little mental machinery ticking away:

Hmmm ... Cannes ... the Riviera ... Ingrid Bergman ... Pernod ... the

good life. Aunt Gunnar goes quiet for another year.

Before we were part of the New Directors Showcase in Cannes in ’96 (and

our name consequently printed in Campaign) we couldn’t get arrested in

London. After that sinful season on the Croisette, and after winning the

Grand Prix in Cannes the year after, we eventually got some scripts for

cut-rate catfood from London; that most sticky and hard-to-crack market

in the world.

Awards are good to remind people of your existence, an occasional flash

of questionable inspiration.

Tim Hearn, Creative director, St Luke’s

Now, I’m the last person to deny myself a good larruping, but as far as

I can see, that’s about all that awards have got going for them. Far

from giving an agency a business edge, I would argue that they have the

opposite effect. The vast majority of new-business prospects coming into

St Luke’s visibly warm to us when they discover that we don’t enter

awards. There is still the feeling out there that agencies are more

concerned with them than with the client’s business. And marketing

directors are employed on the basis of results, not pencils, so it

doesn’t help them.

As far as agencies are concerned, awards are expensive to enter, likely

to foster friction and jealousy within or between departments, and bad

for morale if you don’t win (which you usually don’t, unless you happen

to be on the jury).

They’re backward looking in an industry that should be looking forward

And if you’re confident that your work’s great, you shouldn’t need to

have a bunch of the usual suspects give you a gong to confirm it. OK, as

an excuse to dress up, drink up and throw up, they’re unparalleled. But

frankly, I can do that in the pub. And the food’s better.

Tim Hearn. Gold, 25-metre backstroke (under 10).

Chris Thomas, Managing director, Lowe Lintas

The formula for a successful advertising agency is simple: produce

likeable, memorable creative communications that sell your clients’

products; attract and retain the best people in every discipline and

create a culture which is conducive to good client relationships and

which allows energy, enthusiasm and talent to flourish.

Winning awards - whether they be for creative work, effectiveness, media

or marketing - is, I believe, an essential part of creating a virtuous

circle. Awards form a beacon of excellence that allows agencies not only

to attract the best people but also to retain them. One of the key

motivators for agency people is pride and generally it is awarded work

that we boast of to our mums, to our friends and to our competitors in

the pub.

I have worked for agencies where the trophy cabinet has been a touch

bare and agencies where the trophy cabinet is well stocked. The

difference in the confidence and pride of staff in an agency that is

winning awards is extraordinary.

But awards are only a part of the virtuous circle. The moment that we

try to make advertising for awards juries and not advertising for our

clients’ customers, the virtuous circle very quickly becomes a vicious


Nick Hastings, Creative director, D’Arcy

Winning awards has benefits for creative departments and for clients.

For creatives, it’s great to be recognised by other people in the

industry. It also makes you more marketable - a big move often follows a

major award - resulting in more wedge.

Awards are also important for clients. I have never been to an awards

ceremony where a client hasn’t really enjoyed picking up awards.

However, awards should not just be about creativity but about

effectiveness. Clients get frustrated if an ad wins an award but proves

a commercial failure for the brand and I sympathise with that. During my

time at CDP we won a gold at D&AD but the ad was a failure in the

marketplace, so the award was a bit vacuous. Therefore, I think the most

meaningful award would be an aggregate of D&AD and IPA - a combination

of pure creative excellence and sheer effectiveness.

In terms of new business, awards raise your profile. However, I don’t

think there is a strong relationship between winning awards and getting

on to a client list. It’s your current work that counts. What I would

add, however, is that there are too many awards which only serves to

devalue them. You could spend a year’s profits entering awards.

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus