Points of View: Are creative awards losing relevance?

By Prachi Srivastava , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | December 26, 2013
After giving the Abbies a miss this year, Ogilvy India recently held its internal awards show - 'Envies'. And this is not the first time a leading creative agency has done so. Are industry-organised creative awards losing value?

When a guy holds his phone at arm's length and clicks his own photograph, it is called a 'selfie'. When a creative agency conducts its own internal awards show and felicitates its best work, what is it called? 'Self awards', as the practice may well be called, coupled with a growing sense of dissatisfaction around the way third party juries gauge creative work, are beginning to become increasingly popular. The trend is seen in the television industry too.

Arvind Sharma

Amer Jaleel

Priti Nair

Shiv Sethuraman

Santosh Padhi

Rajiv Rao

But there's a flipside to the story. While networked giants like Ogilvy and Lowe can afford to boycott prestigious industry award shows on a whim, there are other, smaller agencies out there that feel otherwise. And fact is, at the employee level, CDs still take a lot of pride in the number of metals they helped their agencies fetch. Sure, gone are the days when a CD got hired on the back of metals alone, but these awards do find a very special place in many a CV.

Moreover, though the credibility of industry-organised creative award shows has found a permanent home under the radar, awards as a concept, are very much alive. Testament to this is Ogilvy's Envies and Lowe's 'True Show'. Lowe, in fact, celebrated '10 years of not giving a damn about awards' earlier this year. But, then again, Lowe participates in effectiveness-based award competitions such as the Effies.

So, all in all, is it fair to say creative awards are losing their importance? Here's what our respondents had to say. Excerpts.

Arvind Sharma, out-going chairman and CEO, India Subcontinent, Leo Burnett

Quality of the creative is the most important thing advertising agencies produce and deliver. Therefore, internally recognising what work is great is super important. However, the outsiders (clients and aspiring employees) want to know which agency is doing the best creative work today and that question is not at all answered by any internal award. That is the reason clients around the world attach significance to awards where all agencies compete in a level playing field.

Gunn Report, that summarises creative performance of network agencies, has grown in importance, from the perspective of clients and the way they select creative agencies. So, even agencies that think there is no need to participate in awards, are actually hoping to enter and win international/regional awards. I don't see much merit in the argument that creative awards have lost significance. They have, in fact, grown in significance. So much so that every NCD worries about what will happen if they lose. It's open competition.

Amer Jaleel, NCD, Lowe Lintas and Partners

We think awards are not credible. It's not that we don't want to participate in the awards; we just have a point of view that work should be evaluated in a particular way in the Indian context. Award shows have not really kept themselves updated on how creative professionals in India are thinking.

This has happened largely because the criteria for evaluation have always come from the West. Large visual ideas and one little logo at the bottom became kind of 'fashionable' and young creative people always wanted to imitate that kind of work; it became scam work. So the credibility got lost. We just didn't believe in it. This whole cycle resulted in us keeping away from the awards. If the evaluation criteria become relevant then of course we will compete.

Priti Nair, founder, Curry Nation

I don't think awards are losing their lustre. Everyone wants awards and it doesn't depend on which agencies are participating. People are becoming more responsible in terms of what kind of 'award work' they are doing. For youngsters these awards are important. In the long run, awards are temporary things that make you happy. As professionals grow, their work becomes more important, though everyone wants to be rewarded for it. Having said that, awards cannot rule the way you work. It's always subjective and depends on the jury. Finally it comes down to whether the piece of work has worked for the client or not.

Shiv Sethuraman, CEO, TBWA India Group

If awards are not dead, they definitely need to be resurrected because they are rapidly losing their importance. Unless the organising committee takes cognizance and takes some drastic measures to restore their credibility, soon there will not be too many agencies participating. The issue is the fact that there have been a lot of setbacks in relation to the awards, a situation unique to India. And it has nothing to do with the size of any agency. I think 'internal awards' are in reaction to the absence of participation in local awards. They are a way to reward creative talent in the absence of participation in a national forum.

Santosh Padhi, chief creative officer and co-founder, Taproot India

Creative awards are still very important. Whether you like it or not, in the creative industry, judging can only be done through awards. The sales cannot tell you if a campaign is creative or not. If a few agencies are not participating, I don't think it will impact the whole business of celebration. And these agencies also understand the importance of awards; the evidence is their participation in international award shows and their own awards.

Rajiv Rao, NCD, Ogilvy India

Awards will never lose their importance for any creative agency. Awards will forever help the industry raise the bar. Ogilvy has a difference of opinion with Goafest but we still believe in awards and continue to enter every major awards show internationally. We have always supported the local awards and will continue to do so if we believe it stands for a common philosophy. We've started our own awards to recognise great creative work that's relevant in this country. We will continue with the Envies even if we start entering the Goafest Awards.

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