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
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
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
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