What Good Is a Golden Pencil?

Seemingly Trivial Industry Awards Provide Untold Benefits -- Even for the Losers

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Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
In the grand scheme of life, advertising awards are completely unimportant. I told a co-worker moments ago that winning a pencil in the One Show will never feel as good as your kid giving you a hug. But in the grand scheme of advertising, do we need awards? Below are my thoughts about some of the more common reasons I've heard about why we don't need them, and why, perhaps, we really do.

We don't need awards to evaluate the quality of our work.
If the results of our work are what matters, we don't need awards. However, we see some of the most effective work in the awards shows, so perhaps we need to celebrate quality to stimulate more quality.

Awards cost money that could be better used elsewhere.
It's a well-known fact that keeping an employee is much cheaper than replacing them, and awards are a very effective way to foster employee loyalty. Whether it's an Effie or a One Show pencil, an industry award has a very positive effect on an employee's sense of accomplishment. Recruitment is a costly part of running an agency. When an agency is winning the most sought-after awards in our industry, it cuts the cost because potential employees want to work there. Awards not only reduce recruitment costs, they also improve the quality of future employees. Winners want to work with winners.

Awards aren't needed because our clients don't care about them.
We recently had a client become very interested in expanding the use of a campaign when they learned it had been awarded for its creative excellence. This wasn't a surprise to me, since I've seen so many positive reactions by clients when I hand them the awards their advertising has garnered. If awards mean something to our clients, they should mean something to us. Awards are a confirmation that there is value in what you are doing, and clients appreciate the positive reinforcement. If my clients didn't care about awards, they wouldn't ask me if we were entering their work. They do ask, every year.

Awards aren't needed to realize our agency's highest potential.
There is an energizing effect on not winning awards. You did not misread; I said not winning awards. We recently were included in what is arguably our industry's most coveted award show. Every employee that wasn't a part of that work was congratulatory to those who were, while resolving that they would not be left out next year. I know this because they came and told me so. Failure many times results in a greater effort to hone skills and dig deeper.

Awards aren't what legitimize an agency's work in the truest sense, but they do have a role. We should keep awards in perspective, while making use of them to gauge our work and motivate our employees to do their very best.
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