Why Should I Lobby My Peers?

For Even the Hottest Shops, Political Skills Are Handy During Awards Season

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Catarino Lopez Catarino 'Cat' Lopez
As part of one of the larger, more established agencies in the Hispanic market, I've always been proud of the fact that we always have a presence in the awards circuit. We are certainly not the most-awarded, and nobody is calling us a "hotshop," but we're always in the running. I am told by those in the know that to get over this hump I need to lobby.

Lobby? I thought I was in advertising, not politics. While I would certainly like the agency to receive awards, I have a hard time lobbying on our behalf to get them. I don't get to lobby consumers when they see my ad on TV, so why should I have to lobby my peers to convince them that our work is good?

What's interesting is that "lobby" is one of those words that needs no translation. "Hay que ser lobby!" is the usual battle cry amongst my creatives when they feel like the agency should have done better at an awards festival. However, while production terms like "dolly" and "pan" have been part of my ad lingo for years, "lobby" has yet to become part of my repertoire. Probably because I suck at it.

I've never been drawn to politics and certainly don't enjoy the process: "Vote for me and I'll vote for you. Hey, let's pool our votes and make sure the other guy doesn't win. Let me explain to you why my ad is a gold and not a silver." It's all part of the lobbying process, one that I am not suited for.

I've been on a few awards juries, and they've all been great experiences, if not for the advertising itself as much as the lessons I've learned in human behavior. If an agency is on a hot streak and winning awards left and right, they usually get the benefit of the doubt for weaker submissions. They might get a bronze for something that should have stayed on the shortlist, or something that should have taken a bronze receives a silver. Because it comes from a hotshop, it must be good and must be awarded. Kudos to the agency for creating such a mystique; who doesn't want to be in that position? Of course, that will eventually work against you. I've seen juries try to cool off a hot shop by making sure they don't win the best of show for example. Not letting the competition get too much ink is also part of the lobbying process.

On the flip side are the not-so-creative agencies that never get any ink. Even a bad agency can do good work from time to time, but many of those agencies have a hard time getting their work onto the shortlist, the logic being they aren't very creative, and therefore everything they do must suck. It happens. All the lobbying in the world won't help these agencies until they begin to consistently deliver solid work. And even then, they still need to lobby.

But I am not bitter! Overall, most of the best work gets awarded, and the worst gets left out. The problem is that there will always be a few pieces that should have done better or worse, and therein lies the rub: Because there is no standard unit of measurement for creativity, advertising is very subjective.

While I've fought it for many years, I'm coming to the grim realization that lobbying is part of the game and something I need to embrace and get better at. I've been searching all the upcoming creative seminars, and, sadly, none of them are offering a workshop on lobbying. I'm actually thinking about posting a job for a lobbyist, so if you know a good freelance lobbyist or a "lobby consultant," send them my way. Awards season is in full swing, and "Hay que ser lobby!"
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