The validity of award programs has come into question for as long as I can remember. Are they truly meaningful? Is work influenced by the desire to win awards? Are the award programs rigged? Can awards attract new clients? Do current clients even care? Is it worth the cost to enter?
I’m writing about this now as I have recently concluded judging the final round of the Effies. This is a very prestigious award program as it honors marketing effectiveness. It’s not based on arbitrary creative or media prowess, it’s based on driving business results. So, as I reviewed submissions, I thought back to the awards I have won and what they meant to the agencies I worked at.
First, let’s talk about the benefits of industry awards. If you’re a small and scrappy agency, awards can put you on the map and give you some visibility and credibility. It validates that the work you’re doing is of a higher standard.
And of course, you can tout the awards on your website and in your credentials. While some clients may seem unfazed by them, I believe they are just another piece of the agency puzzle that can position you as a smart creative driven, results oriented agency, whether you are media or creative focused. This of course can be a benefit when pursuing new business.
Given today’s landscape, I would consider entering award programs for one primary reason. Awards are a reflection of the work done by your teams. There is nothing more gratifying and galvanizing as being on the team that won an award. It can embolden your staff and, in an era of low employee retention in our industry, this could be a key tool in your arsenal to help retain talent. You can dismiss what your clients think or how your peers feel because anything you can do to motivate and keep staff happy and proud of where they work must be of the highest priority. This will translate into better work and higher client retention.
As a bit of history, award programs fell from grace back in 1991 when the Clio award ceremony was referred to as "the most bizarre event in advertising history.” In other words, it was a complete debacle.
Attendees who paid the $125 admission price did not have tickets waiting at the door, as promised. Also missing were any Clio officials. The event did not start on time, and when the lights dimmed and the band started playing, a man walked up to the microphone and began to speak. He identified himself as the caterer and announced that the master of ceremonies was a no-show, but that he would give it a shot. As each winner was announced, the owner of the work was asked to come to the stage, pick up their Clio, and identify themselves and their agency. When the last award in the first category was dispensed, the band began playing an interlude and there was no one to emcee the rest of the program.
The audience began booing and throwing dinner rolls. Several minutes passed, but no one took his place. As people began to leave, one man jumped the stage to snatch a statuette. Then suddenly, the stage was stampeded by a feeding frenzy of advertising executives. A year later, the Clio organization filed for bankruptcy.
Fortunately, the Clio Awards reinvented themselves and they now celebrate bold work that propels the advertising industry forward, inspiring a competitive marketplace of ideas fostering meaningful connections within the creative community.
So again, however you feel about awards, good, bad, or indifferent, please consider the value they bring to your teams who undoubtedly worked very hard on that campaign or plan. If it helps retain talent, all the other benefits are gravy. Now that’s something to celebrate.