And the Winner of the Award for Best Brand Interaction Is...
The same is true in most any kind of advertising, even on the Web. 95 percent of all ad commentary is, it seems to me, about the creative. And awards programs for excellence in marketing very seldom address what most interactive agency heads know is the fulcrum of a campaign's success: How the user experiences interaction with the advertiser's brand.
Take a look at some of the more prominent awards programs that are out there. The WebAward Internet Advertising Competition (IAC) Awards were developed by the Web Marketing Association "to honor excellence in the online advertising category." All major and many minor industry verticals are provided with their own awards, with judging criteria including: "Creativity, Innovation, Impact, Design, Copywriting, and Use of the medium." All of these are, of course, carefully defined. I'm kidding. Of course they aren't.
Hmmm, how about a category that rewards "most forwarded viral campaign," or "rich media the provides highest fulfillment rate" or best branded experience." That's supposed to be the thing about our industry, isn't it? Aren't we supposed to be able to precisely measure these things? I mean, the interactive ad business should make that conversation I referenced earlier moot, at least to some degree.
Presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, the annual Webby and People's Choice awards are billed as the preeminent honors for Web sites. The Webby Awards identify the "Best of the Web," and include categories such as best practices and a new one, called Business Awards. But, I'm wondering what the criteria are for usability, and whether the Webby's "most entertaining and strategic" criteria are, well, quantifiable.
The folks at AD:TECH seem to be onto something with the categories their accepting entries for this summer. The Fall AD:TECH (why is this always capitalized?) event in New York will feature awards given in 17 categories - perhaps rivaling the Oscars - ranging from rich media and email marketing to banner ads and new marketing technologies. Some of these are as vague as what I was complaining about before. But, others include "Best Consumer Campaign," awarding campaigns that had a quantifiable metric for success in consumer interaction, and "Best Consumer Web Site," for best visual and navigation designed for consumers.
It's a start. What I'm really angling for here is something more direct though. Why are there no awards for highest response rate given for each category of interactive ad unit? How about an award for the microsite that had the fewest visitors drop off? Perhaps the most important one would be the award for an online brand experience that gets consumers what they want in the shortest amount of time. That would mean the agencies would need to design with that in mind, with awards given for highest retention, brand interaction, ease of navigation, highest number of average page views, etc. Not sexy, just successful, right? Maybe if we start rewarding that kind of thinking with highly publicized events and cool trophies, people will start to focus more on the strengths of our industry - how we can engender brand interaction, and sales and actually quantify these unlike any other media. Cool, huh? Wouldn't that help our industry grow? I think it would.
Maybe then, the cocktail party banter would go more like this:
First Cocktail Person: "Did you see that COOL rich media with the cow and the firefly?"
Second Cocktail Person: "Did you see its conversion rate? That milk company had almost a quarter of all people who saw the ad sign up for the coupon. Now they have a data set to go back to with other kinds of marketing, and they know that many of those people will actually buy their product - they can measure it."
Yeah, I know. Maybe this doesn't sound very sexy. But, isn't success ultimately more sexy than failure? There are numerous powerful or charismatic, but not stereotypically attractive men and women who have proved it that at a much more visceral level. With regard to interactive marketing though, isn't it time that we stopped allowing the same non-standards that have driven TV style awards restrict how we crow about our "best and brightest?" After all, I believe that interactive marketing works and can demonstrate that it works quantitatively, in ways that no other medium can. To me, that visceral proof should be what we crow about with our awards.