EDITORIAL: IPA proves nothing with these awards

When you're in the kind of hole into which the IPA Effectiveness Awards have fallen, it's wise to stop digging - and the organisers have rightly decided to put down their spades and take stock of the situation.

When you're in the kind of hole into which the IPA Effectiveness Awards have fallen, it's wise to stop digging - and the organisers have rightly decided to put down their spades and take stock of the situation.

It's not that there's much wrong with the awards night itself. The black-tie event at London's Hilton hotel last week was a thousand times better than previous prizegivings, which matched dung-shovelling contests for interest and excitement. Watching the outrageous Ruby Wax achieve the impossible by making Rupert Howell, the ebullient IPA president, look repressed was alone worth the price of a ticket.

But a much more appealing public face can no longer mask some fundamental underlying problems that threaten to turn the awards into an anachronism unless they are addressed.

The most ominous straw in the wind has been the failure to arrest the steady decline in entries. Despite the 'roadshows' and agency presentations aimed at increasing entry numbers to 70, this year's figure actually fell to 52.

The best spin that can be put on the drop is that the awards, introduced 20 years ago to overcome client scepticism that advertising could produce measurable results, are now pushing at an open door. Perhaps it's merely reflective of the fact that most clients no longer need convincing - and certainly not to the rigorous levels demanded from the entrants.

This may be partly true but it would be complacent and arrogant to believe that it is the only reason. The fact is that the Effectiveness Awards are a victim of time and circumstance.

In an over-supplied and hugely competitive market, agencies are often reluctant to divert planning resource into producing 4,000-word case studies.

Hardly surprising that some prefer to enter other less demanding awards.

What's clear is that the Effectiveness Awards have reached a defining period in their evolution and can't go on as they are. To do so would be to see them abandoned by sponsors and exploited by a small number of agencies and failing to produce tangible benefits for the IPA's membership as a whole.

The time has come to get back to basics. If the awards have proved advertising works, maybe it's time to do the same for integrated communications.

The trick will be in making the awards more accessible without dumbing them down. Let's hope the IPA can do it.



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