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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  The Five Major Award Show Flaws in the System

The Five Major Award Show Flaws in the System

Posted on September 30, 2011 and read 4,063 times

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ignaciocreditpic The Five Major Award Show Flaws in the SystemIgnacio Oreamuno


Awards shows love to glorify their judges. Big shot creative directors are flown in from every corner of the world to be simultaneously pampered and forced to watch thousands of ads, all to determine which ones are worthy of a golden statue depicting either an African animal or some muse lady with wings.

I have attended lots of international award show judging, such as the CLIO’s, and I have even judged myself in other shows. I can tell you that there are some flaws in the system that should be pretty evident to everyone; things that I tried to address when we created the Tomorrow Awards. Let’s talk about them. If I’m wrong, tell me. If I’m forgetting something, let me know so we can fix it.

1. The debate is closed.

Judging TV in a big show involves days of debates. What is the end product? A list of winners. Sure, some award shows interview the judges afterwards, but to be honest, it is not the 8 dudes and dudettes behind closed doors that need to hear this stuff. It is the thousands of creatives and account people doing the day-to-day grind that need to hear the “why” and the “what.”

When an ad like Cadbury Gorilla wins at Cannes, well, it’s funny, but I don’t really learn much from that as a creative. We’re all too busy drinking our asses off at Cannes to care about why anything wins. It is evident to me that we have reached a point in our industry where we can’t just move forward without trying to learn from each other and the past.

Most other industries adjust to change, train and learn. We haven’t. Let’s face it. All creatives who got used to doing TV, radio and print and are terrified of the new technologies that are being used by forward-thinking ad agencies and clients. I recently moderated a panel where all the judges, who were big shot CD’s, admitted their fear of all that is coming and new. It’s normal. We have to re-learn our craft. Change isn’t coming, though. It’s been sitting at the reception of your agency for years and nobody has even asked it if it wants a coffee.

With the Tomorrow Awards, we shoot the entire judging process from beginning to end, and we create a web documentary so we can share as much knowledge of the debate that went on with our community and network. We also put a lot of effort into finding out WHY something wins. As you can see from some of the campaigns that have been entered, like “Toyota Glass of Water,” “Tim Burton Cadavre Exquis” and “Johnny Walker Words on the Journey,” we also put a lot of effort into documenting how the shortlisted and winning campaigns were made.

2. Professional Judges.

Once you start judging award shows, you get invited to the other ones. It’s normal, seeing as the shows want the best people. The problem is that if you were to switch the panel of judges every time, you would get different results. The judging environment and the people you chose are extremely important. I learned this from many years of watching the CLIO judging, which was always like a church: respect the work, respect the people that entered the ads and respect the other judges.

At the Tomorrow Awards, we try to have an even balance between humongous worldwide agencies, independent agencies and traditional/digital agencies.

3. They don’t involve the industry.

The other thing that we do, which is probably the part of the show I most enjoy, is include a public industry judge. This is crucial because it’s not right that most award shows use their judges to do a first round of elimination. It doesn’t require a 20-year veteran to pick the nuggets from the dirt. Their expertise and energies are better suited for the final shortlist debates. The Tomorrow Awards judges only debate the Top 50 Shortlisted Campaigns,  and it takes an entire day of heated debates to finalize the five winners. Having judges that are fresh and energetic helps to achieve solid and objective results.

The real reason why I wanted to get the greater industry to participate in the judging process is because the ones that need to learn about campaigns that are setting trends and changing our industry are not the ECD’s, but the actual creative teams and account people. Going through all the work entered allows everybody to catch up with the best work being made around the world. We encourage everyone to not only view the case study films, but download the apps, play the games, visit the websites and get a real inside out view of the campaigns.

You pick your favorites and the points get accrued to determine the Top 50 Shortlisted Campaigns for the Monster Judges to debate.

3. 5 not 500.

My pal and founding Chairman of the Monster Judges Rei Inamoto, Chief Creative Officer at AKQA, had a big influence on how the Tomorrow Awards is today. Not only did he come up with the idea of omitting categories, which is the most important part of the Tomorrow Awards, but he also determined that we only choose five winners.

We give away five trophies for the simple reason that the purpose of the Tomorrow Awards is to show the industry where we think things are going. What are campaigns going to be like in 6 months or a year?

Take a look at our last five winners:

tawinners1 The Five Major Award Show Flaws in the System tawinners2 The Five Major Award Show Flaws in the System
tawinners3 The Five Major Award Show Flaws in the System tawinners4 The Five Major Award Show Flaws in the System

tawinners5 The Five Major Award Show Flaws in the System

We have five completely different campaigns that each have a lesson of their own. R/GA used its own creatives to come up with essentially a social media application in itself. Google created an international crowd-sourced campaign and turned it into a documentary, 4th Amendment Wear is essentially a campaign that is not a campaign, but the product itself, 180LA pushed the limits of what technology can do with the “Line Drive” and Wilderness Downtown showed us that even a music video can be an ad.

All of our winners create an internal debate for creatives. “My brief says TV ad and interactive site, but can we do more? Can we innovate and do more for the client? How do I get there? How do I produce it? How do I convince the client to go there?”

4. One year ago is the past.

The stuff that gets entered into the big shows is likely to have been done a year ago and entered this year, so by the time it gets awarded, it is old, it’s the past and there is nothing for us to learn from it.

The Tomorrow Awards is bi-annual because of that. Innovation is happening at a much quicker pace and technology changes like crazy. Social media platforms like Facebook, Google + and Twitter change the way we do things now, but in six months we’ll have ten new technologies which add to the palette of colors we use in campaigns.

A lot of agencies tell us, “Oh sorry, we only get our work ready to enter once a year.” But if you are not evolving and producing lots of work throughout the year, and innovating at least every 6 months, then you’re falling behind. This is the time to experiment, to play and to enjoy the waves of change.

5. Category.

C’mon… “Poster Indoor” and “Poster Outdoor”? “15 second ad for TV under 50K”? That’s the past. Campaigns cannot be split up anymore. Campaigns used to be an idea with a tagline and an art direction style that held everything together. That’s no more. The campaigns of the future will and are going to be highly integrated strategic and technological mashups all connected by strategy, not by a funny joke or tagline. Consumers don’t see categories anymore, so we shouldn’t either.

All our judges have always said it is very different to judge our show because they are not spending their time figuring out what category an entry belongs to.

Are the Tomorrow Awards the panacea for all that ails the advertising industry? Hardly. But I do believe that things need to be shaken up from time to time before tradition becomes stagnation. I could be wrong, but advertising award shows have long fallen behind and have taken advantage of agencies that, like zombies, send in tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for the golden figurines. I think it’s time we re-assess what the role of the award show is. Yes, it is okay to make money, but we should serve a higher purpose. It’s our responsibility to point the way to the future and navigate in the seas of change.

The Tomorrow Awards call for entries has been extended to October 14, 2011. Enter your work and show that you are an agency of the future at

  • Nicole Polivka

    A big thing in the technological age should be results, and I don’t mean results that are self-selected, but standardized ones.  Not client-side results (which can have different barriers from clients – e.g. can they be shared at all, can they be shared in a timely fashion, etc) but results that show whether the campaign resonated with consumers.  At the end of the day, that’s what we should be trying to do, but with awards shows there’s so much focus on impressing the industry that there are sometimes experiences that are inherently unusable for consumers, but look spectacular.  I’ve seen campaigns that looked incredible on the front end, but if you dug into the analytics on the backend, the bells and whistles made things so frustrating for users that they couldn’t be bothered to stick around.The tricky thing with this, of course, is that these would have to be standardized measures, otherwise they’re easy to fudge, and in this age of quickly changing technology where every campaign has unique elements, it’s difficult to standardize.  But one way might be a ratio of how many people saw your experience vs how many people did what you actually wanted them to do.  How many people used the app that they downloaded, played the game that you created, sent messages to a friend.  Not just how many people got there, which can just be a reflection of size of media buy.  Not total time spent, which is often just a multiplication of how many users got there times average time spent which sounds hugely impressive as an aggregate but as individual measures sometimes aren’t really all that good.  But a ratio of how many people got there to how many people completed it.  This has the benefit of putting the emphasis on making the experience enjoyable for a consumer rather than just looking good, as well as the opportunity to even the playing field for smaller shops which may not have millions of dollars in media that guarantee impressive amounts of eyeballs on work.  It might not be perfect, but in an age where the consumer’s engagement can be measured, it seems a miss to me to not make it a mandatory part of winning in a way that can’t be fudged or be dependent on media buy.

  • Ignacio Oreamuno

    Yes and no.
    I totally agree with you about the importance of analytics and effectiveness.

    HOWEVER, what we are trying to find are the campaigns that break new ground in the field of communications. Ads that pave the way for other agencies and creatives to follow.

    Think of BMW films. When that came out it taught ad agencies that a TV ad didn’t need to be on TV and that a 30 second spot could be 12 minutes and that it didn’t have to advertise the product that it could use the product instead. Cool yes? Did it sell cars? who knows!

    We as an industry must balance effectiveness with experimentation. The agencies that break new ground are doing it alongside very brave clients.

    Did Dove evolution sell shampoos? Hard to tell, but it had a million billion hits.

  • Nicole Polivka

    Thanks for your comment Ignacio, I totally agree.  Maybe it wasn’t entirely clear in my comment, but I never said it should be tied to sales.  I said the measure should be consumer engagement.  Under that rubric, both BMW Films and Dove Evolution would have been considered successful.

  • Cory Pelletier

    Ignacio, I think this kind of discussion is needed more in our industry.

    One thing that always shocks me is composition of creative judging panels.  Almost no creative shows include a media guy, or a strategist/planner, researcher or technologist.  What about a client or two…the reason being is that the gig would be up on a lot of ideas/campaigns real quick.  Of course the traditionalists would say these people are not true creatives…”yes I see the eyes rolling from the creative purists at my suggestion” but that is just BS in this day and age. It also reveals the double talk & client speak within the agency culture.  Creative lives in an ivory tower that can only be crafted & judged by esteemed peers of the same ilk.

    Creativity is a beautiful thing and comes in many forms, new perspectives spawn innovation & invention, ideas can come from anywhere, so should judges!CP





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