Judge not lest ye be judged

With the ad industry pushing new means of communication, it’s time for the awards that judge the work to reflect the pace of change

Advertising award shows are a polarising topic. Half the people in the industry would die for a nomination, the other half avoid them like the plague. But all the judging involved got me thinking: are award shows changing with the times? The answer, unfortunately, is no. Especially when it comes to recognising the most innovative forms of talking to and engaging with our consumers. Here are a few thoughts that could help the awards shows catch up with the work.

Re-think the categories
We need new categories that do justice to the kind of work coming out. We should split the ever-growing free-for-all ‘innovation’ category into differ­ent buckets, such as ‘best at being useful’; ‘best at collaboration’; and ‘best at brand engagement’. The Andys recently introduced a category called ‘Program to make lives better’. Separate from the established charity categories, this one attempts to award a campaign that – well – the clue is in the name.

Recognise the first to market
The One Show Interactive was the first to appreciate that things change fast when it comes to new tech, so it judges interactive work quarterly. Chatroulette is somewhat hot for a brand now, but will it be in nine months time when there are more brands using it? While we shouldn’t award something simply for being first, the One Show Interactive system recognises those ‘firsts’ and puts them in the pot so they can be debated. This awards innovation, but also gives an indication of which brands are consistently being more progressive.

Awarding hybrid roles
While the Effies are an exception and the Hive Awards do a good job of recognising the unsung heroes of digital, I‘d go further. Since roles in agencies are changing and becoming hybrid-like, wouldn’t it be great to award the same person for a combination of things? ‘Best art director and coder’, for example? The Brazilians are great at it. Young graduates often refuse to be boxed in one role so we’d be sending them a positive message if we awarded both the craft and the hybrids.

Give clients prizes too
The One Show Interactive recently awarded Uniqlo for coming up with progressive on-brand executions with a range of different agencies in different countries. This is a great start, but how about properly singling out the client? Rarely are they rewarded for taking risks. If each agency nominated a ‘marketer of the year’, that would help give them a reason to push through better work.

No repeats
Because of the way the deadlines work, something can win at Cannes and then, a year later, win at the Clios. And savvy agencies know they can do better on the Gunn Report if they win in multiple categories. Against my own instincts, I’d like to propose expiration dates on entries and a ban on excessive multiple category winners. Why? Remember when you started out and were hungry to see different, fresh approaches to the work? Well, these two ideas would definitely help that.

If you’re worried my suggestions would make award shows even more tedious, don’t be. They would make the way we reward ourselves – and our clients – a whole lot fresher. They’re ideas that would, finally, fully recognise just how much the advertising industry is changing.

Alessandra Lariu is a creative director at McCann Erickson NY (see mccannny.com). This year she has already been on the judging panel for the Clio Awards, the Andys, the Effies and the Addys.

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