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Isn’t Winning Everything?

Posted on April 19, 2012 and read 1,761 times

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pierno Isn’t Winning Everything?Adam Pierno
Creative Director
Partners + Napier, Atlanta
Hunting the Spark

Do awards in advertising still mean anything?

Just putting it out there. You could (and will, I’m certain) point out that I’m not a heavily awarded creative, and so I should keep my beak out of this. And if you’ve won more metal, lucite and paper than I have, go ahead and skip this post. But I’m not defaming awards, or people who win them. I’m still one of you. I am just trying to understand the value.

Some friends who I respect a hell of a lot, at an agency they built themselves, recently won a boatload of awards. I congratulated them. The work was solid. They went out and celebrated. And that is great.

But knowing those people, and knowing the team at my agency – who also just won another boatload of awards at another show— and their commitment to the work means that I know they actually celebrate the work every day. We knew it was good work. We knew that 107 headlines were written to get to the five that went to the client, and the three that ran and were submitted for the awards. We knew how many typefaces were tried in the layout and how many images were left on the lightbox, unused.

And then on to the AE’s. To the planners. Through the gauntlet of conference calls, client meetings and late night emails. Nevermind celebrating the awards the work may win, it’s worth celebrating that ideas get produced intact at all. The people who love the craft of what we do celebrate the work every day. We mourn ideas that don’t make it out of the meeting alive, and more ruefully those that are loved initially but twisted into something softer and unrecognizable by the time they get executed. Nevermind the work that gets the nod from the big show.

But now there are so many shows. Or at least, so many awards. I’m not sure how many of the awards have actual shows; it’s impossible to keep track. As a junior, I collected the books. Try to do that now. They are innumerable. When publishing stops, the only things still coming off of presses around the world will be award show books.

And so we list the awards we’ve won, or keep them on a shelf in the lobby or in the conference room. Or as some agencies do, we fling them unceremoniously around the office as if they’re garbage or unimportant knick-knacks. And I guess most are.

If you’ve picked up a Pencil or snagged a Lion, right on. But what do you do with the award for small space B2B? Do you brag about that one? I guess if I won it, I would. But does it translate to anything beyond that night? I don’t know.

At a failing agency a few years back, we were awarded Best of Show at our local show. We had just done a round of layoffs, essentially the final round before shutting down. That night as we celebrated, I thought maybe we just saved the agency. Saved some jobs. People would hear about it, clients would call.

But you know what? Nobody called. We got no reward from the agency. And the agency survived another few months before folding. The award hadn’t changed anything. But then again, I can say that it didn’t hurt either. It was solid work, and the team that was still around was at least proud to hang on until the end, believing that we fought the good fight together.

Did it mean more because judges I don’t know liked some of our work? Did their validation make the work better? It was already in our agency book and our personal books. Still is. I don’t think anyone outside of Phoenix with a sensational memory would remember that the work won anything. I don’t have it badged on my site. I don’t think me telling a CD that another CD liked it would make it better or more effective. Would it encourage a guy who saw a spot on Spike TV to buy a burger if he knew that the ad had won a Pencil? Or is it just enough for him that the burger is well lit, and the music is memorable?

I do envy the people that rack up the awards year after year, of course. Well, upon reflection, I don’t think I envy the awards themselves. I envy the skill that earned them. Their ability. I am actually jealous that they authored that thing that moved me.

And maybe I am a little jealous that they got to fly to France for week to grab a trophy. Sure, I can admit that. And I’ll be entering our work again next year.

Editor’s note: What are your thoughts on awards? Debate in the comments below or at

  • Harley

    Awards are great. Validation that your work is better than the rest of the entries. But a client doesn’t normally care about your awards…they care about what you can do for their business. 

    If someone wins an award for a creative campaign for a restaurant, wonderful. If that restaurant doesn’t get more diners coming in, then it’s a creative success and a strategic failure.

    Nice article!

  • wiktorbielski

    That is why the only one award i respect is Effie – because it is not a beauty contest and it underline the value of real results (sales etc.)




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