Ready For The Evolution Of Creative Awards: Function = Form

Following the ad industry’s yearly gathering in the south of France, the annual debate about what defines creative excellence is running through the halls again. Words like disruption, memorability and unaided recall drive healthy and productive sparring sessions. The pride in proclaiming, “Remember that campaign? We made that,” reminds us all why we were attracted to this crazy business way back in college.  

As the role of advertising has changed, however, many of us would love to see the awards industry change along with it. In reviewing the criteria for creative awards across the landscape, it’s clear that most continue to prioritize the “art” side of creative success without properly celebrating why we develop the creative in the first place — to drive measurable business results for clients. 

At Cannes this year, the awards were pretty evenly distributed amongst brands and campaigns with standouts including Apple, KFC, P&G and Nike.



But last year, The Fearless Girl stole the show, winning an incredible 18 Lions. The campaign was absolutely brilliant in its ideation, it was executed impeccably and brought awareness about a lack of female representation in the industry. But ask the common person who it was for, and there are a surprisingly few who can name State Street as the advertiser. So, it was successful by being innovative, thought-provoking, and for bringing a super-important issue to the forefront, but did it truly work for State Street? Only they can tell you.  

Lately, what gets me excited about this business has been the new-form of creative that moves the needle. It tends to be talked about less, it’s neither new nor contrarian to what traditional advertising is, but ultimately it drives results — or changes the way a business operates.

Union Bank, for example, launched PurePoint Financial last year, and it used data-intelligence to craft an efficient marketing and media machine, complete with a reduced traditional media plan and financial centers that double as art museums. By all accounts, it is way ahead of schedule, and the business went from proof of concept to full-fledged disruptor based on the industry acknowledgements it has received.

Family Dollar is another one. It produced an 18-epsiode, 22-minute per-week gameshow that aired each week on WB and was hosted by celebrity chef Pat Neely, all to help launch its Smart Coupons loyalty programs. How many of this year’s Cannes winners turned media dollars into new marketing vehicles that had syndication potential?

So, as I sit here today and reflect on how the industry has changed, I continue to appreciate the value of creative awards in celebrating — more than anything — the reason we all got into advertising in the first place.  

But I also recognize that the world has changed, and results drive sustainability with our clients. I hunger for more awards to look to what moves the business needle beyond just disruption and memorability. I suspect it will result in better creative, and help prove that this profession we all love so much will continue on.

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