Of advertising awards and entry submissions

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At the outset, a disclaimer: I am not a veteran of judging creative award shows. I have not reached a stage in my career where I have ever been invited by major award shows to be a jury member. Of late, a few award shows have invited to be a part of their online jury where one is asked to rate award submissions on a few parameters. Based on this limited experience and general observations over the years, herewith some thoughts on creative awards and entry submissions:

Ad agency teams need training on entry submissions

Creative brief formats have common questions across ad agencies. Similarly, award entries have these common asks: objective, strategy, creative approach or idea and proof of success. I have seen several entries where there is pretty much the same text written for the objective, strategy and idea. Many of the entries are poorly drafted too. Clearly, many agencies, especially the smaller ones can do with some training by industry veterans, especially those with experience in crafting award entries for tough competitions such as Cannes, Clio and other global awards. It is said that even the best of ideas needs to be ‘packaged’ and sold well to make an impact. Very rarely will we have an idea so good that it does not need any ‘selling’.

The quality of the entry is also dependent on the work itself. If the work is run-of-the-mill, objective is fuzzy and the idea not clutter breaking then even a well-written entry may not be able to sell it. The most important aspect of the form, the proof of success, is often the most neglected. Since many entries are about digital campaigns nowadays, this column is filled with meaningless vanity metrics such as reach, likes, impressions and notional ‘PR value’. While this maybe true of even reputed award shows, there is clearly a need for better award entry documents.

Award shows: sea of sameness

There could be several objectives behind industry events, conclaves and award shows. A media brand may execute such to enhance their ‘thought leadership’ image, build better relationships with industry stakeholders, offer a platform for networking, encourage creativity and so on. In this context, I feel advertising awards (either for effectiveness such as The Effies or other awards celebrating the creative idea itself) serve a positive purpose. It is good to be recognised by peers and those who ‘buy’ creative i.e. advertisers. I also feel that creativity is essential for success in the market place. There could be exceptions where business success has occurred without the backing of great creative. For example, in the Indian automobile sector, there are huge successes which have not been driven (no pun intended) by great creative. The success factors could have been good pricing, distribution, prior brand reputation, great product value and so on. Overall, there is a link to good creative leading to brand affinity and with other factors (such as pricing, product) being in place, there is a correlation to market success.

However, chasing awards has become an unhealthy obsession for many in the industry. This has led to some out-of-the-box thinking for imaginary services and obscure causes, often ‘engineered’ for awards. While a handful of awards are for real brands with real business problems, I guess the industry think is that the creative reputation enhanced by winning global awards increases the brand halo thus attracting talent and business. In this context, there are a plethora of awards, slicing and dicing the various segments & practices – OTT, mobile, brand experience and so on. This leads to a sea of sameness among award shows with only a handful retaining their aura – pretty similar to the movie industry awards.

The situation is unlikely to change on both these aspects in the coming years as day-to-day operational pressures will take precedence. Industry awards are a high that feeds the ecosystem.

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