The auditorium was packed. Everybody wanted to beat everyone else, and badly, in the run to win gold medals and Best of Show.
Some agencies cheered when they won a medal. Others booed when they did not win. Kind of like being at a high school basketball game. A well-known invitation to attend an award show referred to the experience as an opportunity to join in "an evening of whining and dining."
A few agencies had it all figured out. They wanted to be the agency with the most total entries and win the most merit awards. This kind of work is usually published in the back of award books as "also-rans" or not at all. The strategy here: This plan might garner enough total points to get your name mentioned on stage a few times, win some sort of Townie Award and gain free use of the term "award-winning ad agency."
A Different Tack
There are people who work hard and smart to create ideas that transcend the ordinary. Their focus is to create ideas that engage people enough to act and to inspire people to believe in a brand. These ideas usually generate more income for clients and more significant awards. What a coincidence.
These people do not make an award shrine to themselves in their private office or home. They know that making a difference for a client is the real reward -- so when awards are won, the agency is not the only party celebrating.
Clients are driven to make a difference by building brands and creating sales. And if the client-agency effort succeeds at doing this, the client may join you at the award show to share in the additional success of the work. However, if the ideas did not succeed in the first place, the brass plating on a gold award will begin to fade the morning after.
Agencies Need More than Entry Fees to Win Awards
Human beings need to feel that the people they work with inspire them to do better and make them feel like they actually matter. They deserve to be heard loud and clear and encouraged to come up with unusual ideas that make a real difference.
Recently, the agency where I am privileged to work won an award for treating people like human beings. We were deemed the 12th best place to work for among small companies in the state of Oregon. We would like to do better than 12th place and we're working on that, but there has been no complaint about the judging. The finish on this 12th place award is not beginning to lose its luster.
There are awards that matter and there are those that don't.
Creating work that matters and winning awards that matter far surpasses the trivial posting of the term "award-winning agency" on a website.