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Terry O’Reilly On Awards

Posted on November 21, 2008 and read 2,161 times

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Do awards REALLY matter?

That question has been asked countless times in various advertising circles. Hell, it’s been debated at least a dozen times on ihaveanidea’s Forum over the years. And while there’s never going to be a definitive yes or no answer, there are always very interesting arguments for both sides.

Enter Terry O’Reilly, Director/Founder/Partner of Pirate Radio & Television, and one of the most respected radio copywriters on the planet. Recently Terry was the Master of Ceremonies for the 59th Annual Advertising & Design Club of Canada Awards, and he dazzled the audience with a speech about why he feels awards DO in fact matter in this crazy business we all love so much. And while Terry’s comments reference the ADCC Awards specifically, and were geared for the show’s audience, the broader picture he paints is intriguing to everyone in this industry, no matter where you’re from.

Take it away, Terry!

Welcome to the 2008 Advertising & Design Club of Canada Awards.

It’s a great honour to host this show again this year.

Which I have always considered to be the best show in our business.


Because it is not driven by profit nor is it owned by an outside company.

It is an award show controlled and guided by our industry.

It has no outside masters to serve.

The ADCC Show exists purely to celebrate the best work of the year.

I have always believed that advertising award shows are like the Detroit Auto Show: We get to see the latest models, and if we’re really lucky, we get to peek at the concept cars.

Award shows are very powerful in their own ways.

They can affect an industry.

They often stir up debate, dissent and lots of controversy.

And they carry a weight that can impact winners.

The very first Academy Awards were held on May 16th, 1929.

Now, you may think that the Oscars were established to celebrate the industry.


They were established by the heads of the studios to try and keep the directors, writers and actors happy – all so they wouldn’t organize a union!!

Since those first Academy Awards, over 2,700 Oscars have been given out.

And nowhere are the words “award-winning” more powerful than in Hollywood.

It has been said that a Best Picture Oscar can add anywhere from $20 to $50 Million to the box office.

An Oscar nomination can put an actor on the map.

It can put a writer on the rolodexes of many Hollywood producers.

I remember when I won my first Gold Award for Television, right here at this very award show in 1986, something happened the very next day that had never happened to me before.

I got a phone call from something called a “headhunter”.

Yes, the words “Award Winning” are powerful.

If you win here tonight, those words just may show up on your obituary one day.

I find it endlessly amusing that the Academy Awards holds the distinction of having won the most Emmy awards in history, with 38 wins and 167 nominations!

An award show winning the most awards in history.

I’ve noticed that advertising award shows are one of the few award shows where humour routinely trumps drama.

Unlike the Oscars.

Over the past 50 years, only two comedies – “Annie Hall” and “Shakespeare In Love” have won Best Picture.

Strange, in an industry where a great actor, while on his deathbed, was asked if dying was hard. He replied, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”

Conversely, great works don’t always win.

The Wizard of Oz, To Kill A Mockingbird, Chinatown, Jaws, Citizen Kane, Raging Bull, Apocalypse Now – none won Best Picture.

Yet, incredibly forgettable films like Cimarron, Cavalcade, How Green Was My Valley, did.

In many award shows, you’ll see ads win around the world, and not show up in their own local shows.

Such is the mystery of award shows.

Way back in 1867, a man named Alfred Nobel invented dynamite.

In subsequent years, Nobel hated that his invention was used for war and destruction.

It all came to a head when a French newspaper, mistakenly thinking Nobel had died, published a headline saying, “The Merchant of Death is Dead.”

Well, that just pissed off Alfred Nobel to no end.

Considering he was, well, still alive and all.

Nobel immediately went home and changed his will.

Allotting his enormous wealth to a series of prizes to be awarded to people who BETTERED the world.

Hence were born the Nobel Peace Prizes.

Meanwhile, across the ocean, a man named Joseph Pulitzer was buying up newspaper companies.

When he bought the New York World newspaper, he immediately shifted its focus to gossip, scandal and sensationalism.

That shift not only made him a wealthy man, he was immediately elected to the House of Representatives.

Pulitzer left millions of dollars in his will, and according to his wishes, the coveted Pulitzer Prizes were established.

Awards are powerful

Win a Nobel award, and you get plum job offers from all over the world.

Win a Pulitzer, and you suddenly get hefty book advances.

The same way an Emmy award might boost an actor’s fee or save a show from cancellation.

Awards are persuasive.

And persuasion is power.

In 1968, James David Power lll founded a consumer information company, analyzing and ranking everything from automobiles to restaurants.

And if you’ve ever created ads or ever designed anything for the auto industry, you’ll know him as J.D. Power & Associates.

Today, automotive sales are made and broken on JD Power awards.

Ad giant David Ogilvy objected to ad award shows, saying they awarded entertainment over effectiveness.

Maybe the best promo piece for an award show I ever saw was for, I believe, the One Show in New York.

On the front of the 4-colour mailer was a headline in big type that said: “David Ogilvy says advertising award shows are for pretentious creative people.”

When you opened it up, there was a spectacular double-page spread of a sprawling castle in France, with the headline: “David Ogilvy lives in a castle with a moat.”

Which, to his dying day, he did.

Regardless of Mr. Ogilvy’s comments, award shows, like this one, motivate, celebrate and energize the industry.

They are the best kind of contagion: When you SEE great work, you’re filled with a desire to DO great work.

Award show annuals are the great “instruction manuals” for young creative people entering the business.

Award annuals were how I learned what a great ad looked like.

And never underestimate the power of “award winning” in front of your name.

I give you “That Oscar-winning rabbit” Bugs Bunny.

Don’t laugh, Bugs has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Bugs was cited recently by Dave Chappelle, On Inside the Actor’s Studio, as one of his greatest influences.

I completely agree – The Bugs Bunny Show taught me comedic timing, and it was a tutorial in the use of sound-effects that I carry with me to this day.

The ADCC show is a commercial for our entire industry.

That is why we take it seriously.

It showcases our abilities.

And the beautiful Annual the Club puts out – that will be in your hands as you leave here tonight – goes into offices, homes and libraries across the country and around the world.

It is a permanent record of this moment in time, in our industry, in the year 2008.

Just the same way that last year’s Best Picture Oscar went to “No Country For Old Men”.

It captured a moment in time.

And accurately foretold John McCain’s future.

Which brings me full circle to those first Oscars in 1929, nearly 80 years ago.

Two things: First, the actual name of an Academy Award, or Oscar, is, officially, an “Award of Merit.”

And you’ll be happy to know we are not only going to give out 256 Awards of Merit this evening, but 81 Silvers and 25 Golds!

And second, that first Academy Award Show in 1929 gave out 15 Oscars that night.

Total running time of the show: 15 minutes.

While we might be a little longer than that, we’re still the smartest, best and SHORTEST award show in the business.

So without further adieu, Let’s get to the awards.

Terry O’Reilly
Pirate Radio & Television




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