Big Awards Are Critical to Small Agency Success

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The expense of competing in this industry stretches small agencies to the brink.
Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
Looking at the current entry fees for national and international competitions, I think many of us probably don't bother.

That's a mistake. Being seen on a national and international level is critical to your local and national success.

Here's why:
  1. One of the greatest benefits of winning national awards is that it makes recruitment easier. If you're in a small market like ours, you must recruit from larger markets. If a candidate has never heard of you, chances are they aren't going to give you a look.

  2. National awards give your agency confidence. Your people realize they are working at a very high level. If they are worth their salt, the taste of national awards makes them hungry to get even better. Morale shoots through the roof when your people know their agency is considered one of the best. Good morale keeps good people from leaving.

  3. Clients love awards. I've never had a client be ambivalent about winning an award. Our clients check in with us to make sure we are entering their work. They worked hard to make it show-worthy too. They want recognition for their efforts.

  4. Prospects pay attention to the shows. Innovative thinking is usually rewarded in the shows. Advertisers need innovation more than ever. Do the math.

  5. Competition makes you better. Many small agencies in small markets become satisfied with being the big fish in a little pond. Small markets have great clients who go outside their markets for their advertising. We can keep those clients in our ad communities if we earn their trust that we can do work at the highest level. Every local ad industry whines about clients going outside their market but frankly we have no right. If our work competes on a national level we won't have to whine. So gear your work to win on a national level and don't let local awards give you a swelled head.

  6. Big agencies don't want the competition. Most national shows have hefty entry fees. Who can blame them if they can get them? Big agencies benefit because we can't afford as much. Can we small agencies afford not to play if we are serious about growing? Besides, There's something especially gratifying when your small-budget ad beats out a big-budget ad that cost more to produce than you bill annually.

There is one caveat to all of this being relevant: Do you have work that will win? The excuses of not having good clients or good budgets are just that, excuses. Most of us have a number of opportunities each year that can easily be compromised, the client is afraid of, or that don't have the budget. When you have a winner you must fight for it. You must not let it die. You must find a way.

Otherwise you're wasting your money entering the competitions in the first place.
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