What does its biggest effectiveness award say about the desires of the advertising industry?

By Dheeraj Sinha , Grey, New Delhi | In Advertising | February 04, 2016
On the culture the advertising fraternity is trying to build through its awards.

The side lawns of Taj Lands End, Bandra, were bustling with energy and celebration on January 29, 2016. It was the 2015 Effies awards night, which brought together the young and the old of the industry, the clients and the agencies, the planners, the client servicing and the creative folks alike. This, in many ways, explains the success of Effies as a platform -- an Effie award belongs to everybody.

All parts of the machinery called marketing communications must move together to deliver a piece of work that looks distinctive and works in the marketplace. To that extent, an Effie is an award for fabulous team sport, not individual brilliance. The way an industry awards itself says a lot about the culture it wants to build. So, what does the rising popularity of Effies (57 agencies, 603 entries) point to? What do these awards say about the cultural desire of this industry?

Dheeraj Sinha

1. Make it real

You can't scam your way to the Effies, well largely. Once in a while you do see an attempt to put some hasty results around a campaign that you never saw. But, the large spread of jury and a greater client mix almost always sniffs it out. It's difficult to win an Effie for a piece of work that people haven't seen. This, to my mind, is the biggest reason for the legitimacy of these awards. Effies are turning out to be the award for the creative product that works in the market place, not just in the jury room. Their popularity puts clear weights around what this industry wants to stand for.

2. Make a difference

Marketing and advertising people have realised that they don't want to be remembered merely as sellers of soaps and shampoos. This trend is apparent even at the Cannes Lions Festival. At Cannes Lions last year, every time the team from ALS bucket challenge went on the stage, it received a standing ovation. The industry was overwhelmed by the cause and its global impact. Many of the campaigns awarded at the 2015 Effies had social themes to them - delayed marriage (Fair & Lovely), gender equality (Ariel), anti-smoking (Nicotex) and so on. Clearly, socially relevant thinking is now close to everyone's hearts. Even fairness creams are building progressive themes. The industry wants to make a greater social difference, not merely to the texture and complexion of people's hair and skin.

3. Find a solution

It looks like advertising is getting tired of ads. We want to move up the value chain -- remember no one wants to be remembered as the seller of soaps and shampoos. So, solutions are the way to go. Brands such as ShopClues and Paper Boat won for their solutions, not just advertising. This is also an ode to the rising client-agency partnership where the lines between a creative idea and a business solution are blurring. We want to be known for ideas that solve a problem or tap an opportunity, not just create ads for product features.

4. Make it big

Unfortunately, small is not big in today's India. We want to reward big, visible efforts. It may have to do with the industry's desire to stand up and get counted in this cluttered world. In fact, we seem to like scale almost to a fault -- most winning campaigns are big, visible ones. It's almost as if you should have seen it and liked it in real life to vote for it. The written case is a mere substantiation. The reason why many digital-only, long-format films failed to impress the jury? Their felt-impact on our minds and lives was uncertain. That many of these cases ended at 'millions of social media impressions' as their key result didn't help either, it said little about how the idea worked in the market.

So here's to the spirit of real work, done collaboratively that makes a social difference and makes its impact felt -- here's to the industry's cultural desire behind the Effies.

(This article first appeared in DNA of Brands on February 1, 2016)

(The author is the chief strategy officer, Grey S and SE Asia; He has also authored India Reloaded and Consumer India - two books on the Indian consumer market.)

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