When Publicis announced in Cannes earlier this year that it would be opting out of entering advertising awards shows in 2018, the company threw a spotlight on the industry's growing awards fatigue. As the contests have expanded and proliferated, so have complaints about too many categories and too much money spent chasing accolades. But now one organization has made a dramatic move in trying to address the bloat: The International Andy Awards, run by the Advertising Club of New York for more than 50 years, has revamped the way it's giving prizes, eliminating categories as a whole, all 75-plus of them, to celebrate the best creative ideas, period.
The organization announced the change in an open letter Friday morning. Entrants will now only need to submit campaigns only once -- no need to enter the same thing multiple times to be considered in multiple categories.
The number of awards, as usual for The Andys, remain unfixed, given out to as many honorees as the jurors see fit.
"We're trying to simplify it for the community," says Gina Grillo, president and CEO of The Andys. "Everything will be looked at through the lens of, how strong is this idea? You don't need to enter it 60 times."
While categories have been eliminated, including distinctions of Gold, Silver and Bronze, the organization will continue to give a best of show called The Grandy and special accolades like The Bravery Award as well as others for students, social good and craft.
Andys organizers are also looking into ways to bring the general public into the jury room in an effort to make the process of deciding on winners more transparent.
This idea emerged back in February, during the last judging session for The Andys. "A lot of the jurors were talking to us about the climate, what awards shows mean, but also the challenges," says Grillo. "It was at that moment we asked, if we were creating an awards show today, what would it look like?"
One caveat: The pricing will go up. The show is moving from a tiered pricing model in which each entry cost $350, $450 or $550 to a fee of $1,000. An additional $500 will be charged for consideration for the Bravery Award, recognizing marketers that have supported ideas deemed courageous, and for Reset, honoring innovation.
While $1,000 might seem steep, overall Grillo says it's financially risky for the Advertising Club. Under the old model, the average piece of work is typically entered seven times.
But Grillo says the Andys have never been about the money for the Advertising Club, a not-for-profit that provides programs and scholarships to help support talent in the industry. "It's about the work and the people behind it," she says.
"Every CD, CCO, ECD looks upon the widespread addition of categories over the years and sees it as a way for awards shows to make more money," says Pete Favat, North American chief creative officer of Deutsch and the current chair for The Andys. "Unfortunately, it shouldn't be like that."
The idea to do away with categories is not new. Ad Age's Creativity had similar thinking back in 2007 with the introduction of its own awards, though our more recent Creativity Awards are organized by category. The Art Directors Club did away with categories in 2010 with its Tomorrow Awards.
"I don't think it's the most original idea in the world, but we're saying that the Andys and a lot of awards shows need to find deeper relevance and put a finger on the pulse of what's going on with ad agencies," Favat says.
"The show has been about bravery and creativity, and if you're going to be about those two things you definitely have to walk that walk," he adds. "If we don't innovate and change the way we're approaching awards shows today, we're not doing our job to be a barometer for the industry. If you're not changing the game, you're dying."