Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I have a proposition for you. For one year, let’s do away with award shows. Starting in January 2010, no agency anywhere in the world will enter anything. Not the One Show. Not D&AD. Not CommArts or even Cannes. Nobody wins. Nobody loses. Nobody enters.

Ridiculous? Maybe not. Think for a minute about what might happen. Would our creative product get worse without the accolades, or would it perhaps get better? Would our perceptions of good work change, having no affirmation from a glossy-paged annual? Would clients be less attracted to our agencies, or would they actually become more trusting? And, most importantly, would our creative spirits shrivel without the annual stroking of our egos?

I admit, I might sulk a little without my precious award shows, but I don’t believe I would try any less to do great work on the briefs that crossed my desk. And I believe that goes for most creatives. Good creatives want to do something great every chance they get, no matter if there is a gold star waiting at the other end.

Maybe it’s because I just got married and I’m feeling a bit more responsible, but most clients aren’t spending as much these days and very talented people I know are getting laid off. The millions of dollars we collectively pour into entry fees each year could keep a lot of talented creatives working. Surely, this would help raise the standard of our work more than a trip to the podium for a pat on the back that we paid money for in the first place.

In 2005, one of the top agencies in South Africa (Network BBDO) decided not to enter any shows after being named the most awarded agency in the country the year prior. What happened? People paid even closer attention to their work. Everyone wondered what good work for the sake of good work actually looked like. Their clients became less-suspect of their true creative intentions. Network BBDO prospered. They are still around today, doing some great award-winning work, I might add. They didn’t vanish from the face of our small advertising planet. No one died of a withered ego.

During our year without awards, if you really need a fix of recognition, I suggest putting your work on or, or any one of the many others. They’re all free. Or better yet, just ask someone you respect to confirm if you’re still relevant or not. Call your mum as a last resort.

Imagine if we all went ahead with this idea and collectively took a year off from our self-congratulations. Better yet, what if we decided to donate 3% of the money that would have gone towards outputs, printouts, tapes, packaging, couriers and entrance fees towards a worthwhile cause. Greenpeace, perhaps. I’m willing to bet our efforts might win me a Titanium Lion in 2011.