IPA AWARDS - The Verdict. Out went the gongs and in came stars Campaign staff ask if the IPA did justice to the victors and whether the best entries won the awards created to show clients that ads really work.

Was it all right on the night? Did the staging of the awards work?

Was it all right on the night? Did the staging of the awards


It wasn’t a complete disaster. But it was far from a total triumph with

the prestige of the night often having to carry it through its wobbliest


At times, the proceedings seemed in desperate need of lightening up.

The three speeches - each lasting between ten and 15 minutes - were too

long and repetitive and cried out for an injection of humour. The

circular stage set in the middle of the black-tie diners didn’t help,

with the speakers able only to face half their audience at a time.

And was it really necessary to rob the event of almost all surprise?

A Financial Times special supplement listing all the winners was already

in circulation before they were announced from the podium.

What about the ads? Why was no work on show?

Good question. With the presence of so many senior clients, it was wise

to tone down the self-congratulatory glitz of a creative awards


But was it right to prevent the audience from seeing any ads? Instead,

we saw static slides of the work, from a distance, and fought to make

out the illegible copy on them. How about a two-minute video from

starred entries next time, showing the ads and a brief resume of their

case for entry?

Did the ’star’ system work and does it need changing?

It’s better than the previous method, which branded many excellent and

well-researched papers as failures. What’s more, the awarding of ’gongs’

to a select few sent out the wrong message to clients by implying that a

lot of advertising didn’t work.

Yet the ’star’ system can seem an equally blunt instrument. Getting just

a single star is the equivalent of being damned with faint praise and

there are reports of planners being found weeping in the loos at the

London Hilton after being so ’honoured’.

The problem is that the number of stars that can be awarded to an entry

range from one to five. Will anybody really be able to point to

significant differences between a three and a four-star paper?

Maybe the answer is to declare that any entry good enough to pass a

rigorous selection process is a winner eligible to be considered for the

grand prix.

Was it right to have an all-client jury?

On balance, yes, because the aim of the IPA awards is essentially

propaganda in the client community. There is still a real need to get

more credibility in the City, and a jury consisting of senior clients -

including disciplines outside of marketing - will certainly have gone

some way to achieving that.

Don’t forget, too, that there was a first stage of judging by industry

specialist advisors, headed by Nick Kendall of Bartle Bogle Hegarty and

Tim Broadbent of Young & Rubicam. That acted as a filter before the

clients took over.

(For the record, the jury was chaired by Lord Marshall of British


He was joined by David Bell, chairman of the Financial Times, Adrian

Hosford, director of BT, John Lee, group personnel and services director

of Halifax, Tim Mason, marketing director of Tesco, Guy Walker, chairman

of Van den Bergh Foods, and Steve Williamson, director of finance and

business planning at SmithKline Beecham.)

Will the revised IPA awards night really enhance the status of

advertising in client boardrooms?

Probably not. The senior clients to be found at last week’s presentation

were not there because they were sceptical about the power of

advertising and needed no lectures on what it can do. They already


Elsewhere, the IPA’s message is a lot more difficult to preach. Done

wrongly, it can seem like a crude pitch to clients for bigger


Indeed, some high-profile critics believe the IPA’s evangelism on behalf

of effective advertising is unnecessary because few clients now need to

be convinced. Instead, more subtle issues need to be addressed.

The biennial awards night may ultimately prove less vital to the IPA

than the need to get City analysts in their corner. It is they who

encourage companies to recognise their brands as shareholder assets and

invest in them accordingly. For that reason, the continued backing of

the awards by the Financial Times will be valuable in raising

marketing’s status to match that of other client company


Was the overall tone of the evening too defensive?

Yes. In trying to prove how mature and grown-up the UK ad industry is,

the evening laid bare a worrying undercurrent of collective insecurity

and lack of self-assurance.

Whingeing about management consultants is beginning to look like

paranoia, particularly when the perceived threat seems increasingly like

a red herring.

The fact is that there has been no significant invasion of agency

territory by the consultants. Not one is producing ads-and they’re never

likely to.

Clients will not be impressed by the industry’s seeming lack of

confidence in itself. And there’s a big difference between being serious

about what you do and taking yourself too seriously.

Instead of focusing on its problems, future awards nights should be a

celebration of the industry’s achievements and the pride it has in


And they should be enlivened with examples of how great creative work

has translated planning into palpable results.

This year’s awards made great play of advertising that talks to multiple

audiences - such as the City and internal staff - simultaneously. Is

this a good idea?

This is a tricky one. Many would argue that the best advertising

contains one message and is utterly single-minded about its purpose.

Equally, however, it is clear that good advertising spills over into

other areas and has an effect beyond sales. So why not attempt to

measure it?

The IPA’s attempt to broaden the awards thus drew praise from most

observers, but there is some concern that in so doing, the primary

purpose of advertising - and of the awards - could get forgotten.

Motivating employees and having an impact in the City are laudable aims,

observers say, but should only be viewed as proofs along the way rather

than ends in themselves. As one former convenor of the judges says:

’This is an entirely sensible direction, but they may have overshot. The

purpose of advertising hasn’t changed but you open the door for people

to say ’hang on, aren’t we covering the wrong things?’ The danger is

that the IPA could end up forgetting who its real target audience is and

sending out a mixed message.’

What do this year’s winners say about the link between creativity and


Over the years, agencies like BMP DDB, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, J. Walter

Thompson, WCRS and Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO have proved that the words

’effective’ and ’creative’ can be used together without fear of


This year’s awards are no different. Timing means the HEA campaign has

not yet won any awards, but few would argue that it isn’t creatively

distinctive, and it may yet do so. In the five-star list, Volkswagen and

the Army have been recognised as outstanding by various sets of awards.

Orange, Colgate, First Direct and Marmite have consistently picked up

gongs at various ceremonies. At the very least, they are far and away

the most creative in their categories.

Pretty much the same holds true among the four- and three-star winners,

where Olivio, Audi, Polaroid and One 2 One (all BBH) and the Meat and

Livestock Commission (BMP) have consistently done well. And Mother’s

Batchelors Supernoodles ads for Van den Bergh are beginning to make

waves at the major awards ceremonies.

Should the Health Education Authority’s drugs education campaign have

won the grand prix?

Uneasy lies the head wearing the grand prix crown. Two years ago, BT

took the flak for, as some saw it, ’buying’ the top award with a massive

adspend. This time the HEA is the target, for a winning campaign whose

results will always be hard to quantify - ’pounds 28 million diverted

from the black market, a saving of pounds 11 million per year in lost

working days, a saving of pounds 3 million as a result of the avoidance

of producing extra or alternative education material’.

While few will argue against what has been an excellently conceived and

executed campaign, it’s nonetheless hard to overcome the feeling that

advertising that highlights a social problem, like charity advertising,

gets a head start in the award stakes.

Whether or not the HEA should have won is hard to say until its entry

document is published. But presumably the all-client jury felt the case

put forward to be so overwhelming that its members overcame what must

have been their natural prejudice towards a social campaign to declare

it the overall winner.

Many others, though, will still need convincing. Advertising is

essentially about adding commercial value. To give first prize to a

campaign with no such intention and whose effectiveness is almost

impossible to prove is, to say the least, curious.

Would it have been better for advertising if a commercial rather than a

public service campaign had won the Grand Prix?

In PR terms, the best that can be said is that the award was unfortunate

and sends a confusing message to the client community. At worst it was

an ’own goal’. Irrespective of whether the effectiveness of the campaign

is provable, it isn’t the example the industry would have naturally

chosen to show advertising really works. Moreover, clients are bound to

have difficulty identifying with it.

The real problem is that the judges, in making their decision, were

unable to compare like with like. While other contenders can prove their

work produced tangible business benefits, many different factors beyond

advertising can influence a drug problem.

Maybe the solution is to create a separate category for non-commercial

case histories which, however good, will never enhance the balance



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