How many creative awards does it take to change a lightbulb?

04 July 2017

By: Rodd Chant

As the dust of Publicis Groupe's decision to pull out of all awards shows for one year is far from settling the industry needs to reassess the mission, and maybe Publicis Groupe did something good for the future by making people think more about this issue.

We need more ideas and less awards in advertising. There are currently 700 advertising award shows that can be entered, that is a pretty staggering number.

Cannes has been in the crosshairs in the new debate that has arisen, and rightly so. It is the biggest, not only in recognition but also cost of entry, attendance and profits for the owners of the award festival.

But does a creative industry need a system that costs so much and have so many awards that trophy shelves buckle under their weight? How many awards does an agency need to prove they are good at their craft? An abundance of them seems to be a bit insecure and over compensating.

Hungry for more.

There has been an argument that the advertising industry needs award shows to attract talent, okay I get that, so how do other creative industries attract talent? Let's take restaurants for example, how do they attract up and coming chefs who will toil under an executive chef and do long hours, meet high expectations, and be expected to deliver time and time again? The answer would be the restaurant's reputation and food and the Executive Chef and his/her team.

Let's take a restaurant like Noma for example, considered one of the best in the world. Young talent from around the globe head there for an opportunity to cook with René Redzepi. Noma has two Michelin stars and have been voted Best Restaurant in the World several times. It doesn't have a slew of trophies sitting on a shelf. But it seems to attract talent worldwide as well as people wanting to experience the food and exemplary service.

I consider food and cooking to be very creative, cooking is a hobby of mine and I have a few talented Executive Chef friends and I can count on one hand how many discussions we've had about awards. Reviews are top of mind for most restaurants, not the awards.

Awards and recognitions are still part of the restaurant business, the cream of the crop will have a Michelin star or two or three and some will be James Beard winners.

They are the two everyone knows about and quite frankly cares about. You don't pay for the chance to win a Michelin star, they are given out purely on recognition of how good a restaurant's food and service is, plus the judges are anonymous. Michelin also has the Bib Gourmand awards for more affordable dining establishments, again, no fee to enter.

I am not sure how much the James Beard awards cost to enter but I would hazard a guess the fee would not be the same as Cannes.

There are many more restaurants than there are advertising agencies, many, many more and they only have two awards to speak of or that are recognized by most as well as accolades from food magazines.

Something like Michelin sounds like what an ad agency should be concerned with - an award given on reputation and the quality of the creative goods produced, voted anonymously. No friends, ex-colleagues or network alliances involved. That also seems like what clients should be looking for, an agency that has a consistent reputation, produces great work time and time again, is looked up to, and that talent worldwide want to work for.

So why not take a page from the food world playbook and have something that is of the same standard as Michelin?

Beyond Cannes there are not for profit award shows as well, such as D&AD and One Club, not all are owned by publicly listed companies such as Cannes who have to answer to share holders, hence making sure there is a category for everything so as to keep the bottom line overflowing. And those not for profits do more to give back to the industry in many ways, so they need to be recognized for their efforts.

If the ad industry had something like Michelin paired with not for profit shows as mentioned above then it would seem like a much more credible system.
Less is more as the saying goes.

A creative director, writer, strategist and thinker; read more on what Rodd Chant has to say here.


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