Editor's Letter, August 2008

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The subjects of awards and production dovetail nicely in this, our special double issue.
In the wake of awards season, the question of who did what on a particular campaign is particularly pertinent. The issue of credit, especially for complicated, multi-faceted, multi-platform work, has long been a contentious one, and the tension around this question boiled over last month when Big Spaceship CEO Michael Lebowitz complained publicly about the way his company had been credited—or rather hadn't—for the awards juggernaut HBO Voyeur (see Lebowitz's POV).

Lebowitz brings up some significant points about the importance of interactive in the larger brand landscape, but perhaps his most transcendent point is this: "There was a time when the 'big idea' was all that mattered. You didn't need to know how it was produced because the medium was always predictable and the line between idea and execution was distinct. Ideas will always be central to great work. But we can no longer separate them from the platforms and channels they play out in." Yes, the issue of determining where the idea stops and where the execution begins and who are creators and who are producers goes far beyond award show credit. It speaks to significant changes in media, creativity and technology and the ways in which those things combine to make new kinds of ad experiences. Ideas are paramount, but an idea sometimes isn't fully formed until one considers all the ways that it can live and breathe. The word collaboration has been beaten so hard it's almost lost its meaning, but it sort of goes to the heart of all matters production right now, particularly for those ideas that have a potential digital component (i.e. pretty much every idea). Since most agencies do not have a full complement of digital production capabilities in house, they are typically collaborating with a digital entity of some description and depending on the scope of the project, that digital entity is bringing broader thinking on how the idea can play out—in other words, it is changing the nature of the idea.

In our special report we take a comprehensive look at the state of production through the eyes of many of the players who are dealing most closely with the issues of getting great work made and building companies to do so. We hear from a range of people from digital agencies and production companies, full service agencies, digital production companies and all entities in between, and the discussion touches on many emerging issues, including rising costs, talent, increasing demands on production companies, and the evolution of production and creative people and shops.

Going back to the narrow issue of ad awards and credit, while some companies are seeking more public acknowledgment of their role in a winning campaign, some, well, aren't. It's always initially funny yet ultimately dismaying to watch organizations frantically brushing off credit for an awarded ad like a big wet bug that landed on their shirt. That's right; it's the amazing Lion winning ad that nobody wants! In our annual awards report on the flip side of this issue, we celebrate those companies and campaigns that were judged most creative by the industry's most creative people. By putting this issue together at all, we offer a tacit endorsement of awards, recognition of the place they occupy in a creative business—awards are a nod to the significant effort of bringing brand ideas to life, to those who further brand creativity and find the best, newest or most entertaining ways of reaching consumers. When gongs are given to bogus ads, (ads that a client has or wants nothing to do with, like the JC Penney scandal-maker "Speed Dressing") obviously the whole awards system is sullied. But it's perhaps more alarming when the client is on board with or indeed driving the run-it-once-to-qualify strategy. Read our rumination on awards gone bad (Awards Report, p. 6) and, as always let us know your take.

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