The annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity wrapped up last week, awarding major ad agencies for their creative excellence. Among the dozens of awards, there are six in the Creative Effectiveness category that “celebrate the measurable impact of creativity.”
That’s right. Six.
Cannes Lions is like the Oscars for advertising, but there are also a ton of local and regional awards handed out each year for digital, print, radio, TV/video, design, content writing, etc. I entered to win a bunch of awards back in my radio days.
Hell, I even won a few.
Marketing and advertising consultants who win these awards will often try to use them to sell their services. On the Home page of their website, they’ll position themselves as an award-winning something or other.
Let the eyerolls commence.
What Was the Criteria?
Like I said before, the vast majority of Cannes Lions awards don’t require or even request any validation of effectiveness or results produced. Most organizations that give awards don’t either. Trophies are handed out based on creativity, originality, humor or “the idea.”
But none of those things pay salaries. They don’t pay the rent. They don’t put food on the table. At least not for the client.
If marketing can’t be directly tied to the achievement of a goal – ideally, some kind of increase in revenue – is it worthy of an award?
In most cases, the true effectiveness of the work being judged can’t be fully and accurately measured for many months. Maybe a year or more. But awards are typically based on recent work.
It’s not uncommon, for example, for a website to launch one week and be the centerpiece of an award entry the next week. How can you give someone an award for a website before you know if it achieves the marketing and business goals?
That website could be artistically spectacular, but if it doesn’t produce, the client could be in trouble. Someone at the marketing company could lose a job, or at least lose a client.
I wish companies that sell based on their awards would be more transparent about what the awards were for and how they were judged.
Do I Deserve a Trophy for Doing My Job?
On the surface, people pay me for content writing. What they really pay for is results.
It doesn’t have to be clever or creative or funny or tear-jerking, although that doesn’t hurt. It just has to work.
My job would be a lot easier if I didn’t have to produce results. I could spend a lot less time on each project, reduce my stress level, and charge a lot less.
But people hire me because they expect results. That’s my job. Even if the content I write helps to deliver exceptional results, which does happen every once in a blue moon, that’s still my job.
An award would be like getting a participation trophy.
If a marketing or advertising company goes on and on about an award they won, I sometimes wonder what’s going on with their other clients. I mean, did you do your job for them? Or is that award your most compelling selling point?
Personally, I’d rather talk to a company’s long-term client than see a trophy. That will tell me if someone is consistently doing their job and worth the investment.
Don’t Get All Offended, Fellow “Creatives”
I will never question the talent or hard work put forth by those who create award-winning advertising and marketing. As a former “creative” in the dog-eat-dog world of radio, I know creative professionals deserve to be recognized, especially when most are underappreciated for the other 364 days of the year.
I know a lot of people who produce great results and won awards. Very few of these people use those awards to sell their services.
Hey, I was all gung ho over awards when I was young and stupid. Now I have my priorities in order. Awards are great for internal recognition and squeezing a bonus out of your employer, but not so much as an external sales tool.
I won my last award 10 years ago. I’m almost positive I haven’t submitted an award entry since. You won’t find any of my awards listed on my website or LinkedIn profile. I just don’t put a lot of weight in awards, as a service provider or a client.
If you’re evaluating service providers, whether in marketing or another field, I would be careful about overvaluing an award that might have no relevance to what you’re trying to achieve.
Grill the service provider. Find out about their approach. Ask to see their work. Ask about the results they’ve produced. Ask to contact their clients.
The answers will tell a far more meaningful story than trophies on a mantle.