Chief Creative Officer Amir Kassaei Says DDB Will Thumb Its Nose At Awards

Over the past several years, it has become fashionable in creative circles to distance oneself from working solely for awards. Endless opinion pieces have been written on the topic and yet nothing ever changes. For good reason, really. Advancing through the creative ranks of an ad agency is heavily based on the number of awards an individual has won even though that metric is detached completely from whether or not the work accomplished anything for the client. And clients still heavily weigh the number of awards an agency has won when choosing to work with an agency. 

Be that as it may, we have another opinion piece, this time from big gun Amir Kassaei, chief creative officer of DDB. In a nutshell, he claims DDB will distance itself from awards and the industry should expect to see much less of DDB throughout awards season. 

Of this move, Kassaei writes: "There is something fundamentally wrong in ad land. Everybody knows it but nobody has been willing to fix it or really even talk about it. Too many of us in the industry have bought into the idea that winning awards is proof of creative effectiveness, so much so that we’re willing to sacrifice our integrity to get them. And in turn that has lessened the integrity of the awards themselves. So if we believe that we are a great creative or an amazing agency or a great network because we won such and such meaningless award in a sub-sub-subcategory at an advertising awards show where ad people award ad people’s irrelevant solutions for problems that often do not even exist, then we'd better think again." 



Ouch! Harsh words for both the agency business and the purveyors of awards.  

Kassaei argues, like thousands before him have, that agencies should focus more on work that will "move people" and "impact societies and shape culture." Right. 

So what's DDB actually going to do? Kassaei says: "We have to stop the madness. Not only by talking about it, but by also doing something against it. So we at DDB will not play this mad game. We will be coming up with a plan to divest ourselves from the madness. We at DDB want to be recognized for the real work that we do for our real clients and their real problems, and if, on top of that, we get some applause from the industry for it, we’ll be happy." 

Does Kassaei's impassioned plea hold water or is it simply more hot air that will be quickly forgotten come Cannes Lions? 

If you ask me, no matter what an agency says, no matter what edict is handed down from on high, Nn matter how loudly those in the industry rail against the fixation with awards, nothing will change. Ever. Why? Because too much is at stake. Too much rests on the notion that agencies and creative with shelf-loads of Lions are just better than agencies and creative with less hardware on their shelves.  

Until human creativity is taken completely out of the equation and creativity goes fully programmatic much like media has gone, there will always be the need for a pat on the back and a stroke of the ego and a desire of one segment of humans (clients) to associate themselves with superiority (in the form of creatives and agencies with lots of hardware). 

So Kassaei can pontificate all he wants but it's highly doubtful anything will change. Except for a healthy number of DDB creatives defecting to agencies who still accept the status quo of awards.

1 comment about "Chief Creative Officer Amir Kassaei Says DDB Will Thumb Its Nose At Awards".
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  1. Elle Mac from Not Applicable, January 18, 2016 at 11:20 a.m.

    I remember the day I discovered my agency counterpart was evaluated based on the number of awards we won.  I was having a coming to Jesus, heart to heart, about alignment.  See I never got the sense we were on the same page.  I knew why I was being fanatical about metrics and understanding program performance.  I just couldnt' figure out why she didn't seem to care. 

    So I came right out and asked "What is on your Performance Plan for the year?".  Do you have anything tied to how my portion of the business performs?  And the answer was "No".  Oh sure, as agency of record, on a macro level there's some language somewhere about how the overall business performs. But the VP I was talking to didn't have anything specific on HER performance plan. Instead it was things about her increasing billings, winning awards and being witty (I kid you not). 

    I set the "witty" statement aside and went right for "winning awards".  I literally laughed out loud.  I told her I couldn't give a flip about winning an award.  And neither did anyone else at the company that I work for.  Of course, they're cute.  Mentions look nice on your resume and Linkedin profile, but that's it. And yet, we were paying resources that are completely focusing on the wrong thing.  A campaign could be dead in the water when it comes to the customer. But because some uninformed judge thought it was clever, the agency is going to do a happy dance at a chicken dinner.  What tha?

    Kassaei is on the right path.  Chasing awards contributes to one of the biggest misalignments in the business.  But instead of "developing a plan to end the madness"; I vote for "Just end it". 

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