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The Awards Gauntlet

Posted on December 19, 2011 and read 1,652 times

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kerrie finch The Awards GauntletKerrie Finch
CEO & Founder

Awards season is well and truly upon us and the entry deadlines are starting to come thick and fast. It’s a mind-boggling process as more and more festivals seem to pop up every year and some poor soul has to run the gauntlet of the dreaded entry process.

Now, these awards entries don’t come cheap so a scatter-gun approach just won’t do. Entering every bit of work into every award show is just not feasible. And it’s not only the entry fees. Agencies also have to consider the production costs of presenting each entry in the required format (generally involving lots of glue and A3 foam boards).

So, like most things in this business, a strategic approach is called for. Starting by going through the work with an objective eye and, crucially, being honest with ourselves about what really is award-winning and what, quite simply, just isn’t. Then we have to look at each award show and pick out not only the most credible, but also the most relevant to the agency’s output.

Hmmm. Sounds straight-forward enough. But then you have the categories to contend with. Last year, Cannes had 12 main categories, each with at least 6 sub-categories. So, that’s a minimum of 72 categories to choose from before you’ve even decided if the sports shoe ad you made comes under sportswear or footwear.

When faced with such a daunting process, it’s no wonder that some agencies now avoid it altogether and opt for the no-awards policy. And it’s no great surprise that we’re starting to see the emergence of the category-free awards show – think the Tomorrow Awards.

Of course, if the agency you work for has collectively agreed on a strategy and has all the work in place and knows exactly which shows it wants to enter (does such a place even exist?), then the awards show sales people are always happy to throw a last minute spanner in your highly organised works. Because they are mostly good at their job, they have a very crafty knack of making you feel like you should be entering their award show above anything else. And so, that nicely targeted list of hand-picked award shows starts to steadily grow. Suddenly, the strategic approach has gone out of the window.

Time is the most valuable commodity in today’s industry. If an awards show wants you to enter (and, at the rates they charge, why wouldn’t they), then they have to come up with a unified process. They have a common goal and so surely streamlining their entry systems and requirements would only mean more love all round.

It serves nobody’s purpose to have to encode the same TVC in 8 different formats. And, while I’m on the subject, can award shows please ditch the arts and crafts approach to presenting print work? As far as I’m aware, there are now several digital alternatives to white foam board.

But, with all that said and done, and despite all of the above-mentioned grievances, I’m still of the belief that the right award show has an important place as a creative showcase. Awards provide a platform for new ideas and innovation to be transported to a global audience, regardless of the region it comes from. Awards shows also drive the industry forward as we all collectively strive for excellence.

Winning awards helps to drive business, hire new talent, and get hired by a new agency (if you are lucky enough to be the afore-mentioned ‘talent’). It also gives a boost to agency morale and can give some valuable feedback as to where your work stands on an industry level. And, let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy getting a bit of gold or silverware?

Besides, if you believe in your work and think it has creative and strategic value, then bite the bullet and put your money where your mouth is. And if you don’t? Then maybe it’s time to ask why and go back to the drawing board.




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