Award Show Losers

By Michael Mark, creative director and CEO, NYCA 

We don’t enter award shows. Because we don’t want to lose.  

We don’t want to lose focus of our target audience. We don’t want to lose sight of our promise to our clients to apply all of our energies to growing their brands with inspired ideas. We don’t want to lose our reputation for integrity. We don’t want to lose our original voice. Work created to win awards is focused on judges. Makes sense, they’re the ones who hand out the awards. Our only target audience is our client’s consumers.  

How many times have we all told our clients that in order to be most effective, an ad has to be single-minded? One message, one target. Our work is based on an insightful positioning and a solid strategy devised from research on our clients’ products/services, the target audience and their media consumption. If we’re distracted even a little bit, we dilute the chances of getting this daunting task accomplished.  

So if you’re determined to win awards with your ads, which master do you answer to? This is the question that led to the invention of the mock ad.  Mock ads are those ads created by an agency who knows that the work that actually ran in the media isn’t quite what the judges are looking for so they do some minor surgery: nipping the copy (often cutting out “the sell” the client insisted on), perhaps doing a bit of liposuction on the hefty logo and then entering that as the ad that supposedly ran.  

No wonder ad agencies have a trust rating below politicians. With hundreds of award shows out there, we shouldn’t be surprised if clients are wary of our claims of 100% dedication on helping their business when it appears we’re really dedicated to advancing ourselves.  

When I started in the business, I was told by my creative director that gold and silver were all that mattered. To survive at the agency you had to win in the shows. Was that what was told to the clients as well? If so, perfect. But I never saw that goal written on a brief under the ad’s objective.   

Judges are big award winners themselves – that’s how they got to be judges. They know how to build award-winning ads. Talented and smart as they are, though, they don’t know our target as well as we do and they don’t know precisely what the client wanted to accomplish. So how are they going to judge the merit of our work? In effect, they don’t know the real score. So what is the value when they hand out that chrome- headed gargoyle? 

I just might start a new show– everyone is a guaranteed winner. No losers. Completely, single-minded and true. Don’t even bother sending in the ads. Just send your fifty buck entry fee and you too can bring home a shiny new statuette. Ladies and gentlemen, I present: the EGOs.

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