5.18.2004

And the award for most awardable ad goes to...

Advertising award shows are a pretty constant topic of discussion around an agency.

While good in concept, the modern award shows are starting to become like the European royal families of old: Exclusive, yes, but inbred; and riddled with sickness.

Now that's a pretty bold statement. There's a definite merit to sharing work, and the idea that the work is curated should mean that there's some sense of taste that can be shared. A person couldn't become a great cook without first tasting great food.

But the problem that seems like it's starting to emerge is that these shows don't feature good taste in general; but instead something very specific.

Award shows like the One Show (still, maybe just because of lack of challengers, considered to be the definitive) arrange for a body of judges to sort through and filter out what they consider the best work from the years entries.

But who are the judges, and what are their criteria?

Overwhelmingly, the first credential for a One Show judge is the number of One Show trophies - gold colored, fat little pencils, which could hardly be a more symbolic shape - a judge has themselves won.

So this means that a One Show judge is qualified to be on the jury because they have in the past produced the kind of work that a One Show judge is likely to select.

Don't bother reading that part again because it won't make any more sense the second time.

In computer programming, it's called recursion. It's the snake that's eating its own tail.

If the judges are selected on their taste, but that taste is defined as liking things that such a judge would like, what kind of work is going to be selected by a One Show judge? One Show style work, of course.

So what's this mean? It's starting to seem like it means that this idea -that taste can be awarded by a body of judges, the so-called "arbiters of cool" - is only going to constantly be rewarding the same type of work it's been rewarding, forever, on and on.

The judges themselves readily admit it. The heartiest praise that can be given, and is given, over and over, in the "judges choice" section of the annuals:

"I wish I'd done it".



So, what's the motivation to buy the show's annual book, if it's the same type of work shown, year after year?

Better yet, what's the point in entering the show? To show how closely one's work can match that of the previous year's winners?

It's as if the One Show has decided that it's a tuning fork in the note of D minor, and to hell with the rest of the other notes. Sing our tune, or be forever off key.

So, this of course has obvious benefits to the One Show community. It can propogate their ideas, benefit them perhaps with an increase in business, and create the impression that their certain style of work is more correct.

But the flaw, and the bit of reasoning that we're all supposed to not reason, is that advertising is first done for clients, not awards, and not all clients need One Show style work.

One Show style advertising works great for the fifty or so clients that show up in the annuals, year after year. But what about the other 99% of good advertising - the stuff that connects consumers with products, connects businesses with customers, and that enriches, enlightens, delights, and informs in spectacular and myriad ways?

Is it just not any good?

And if we measure an ad creative's talent by the amount of awards they've won, are we doing our clients and our agencies a disservice?

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