May 16, 2007

Awards Show Season

Okay, so I'm back. Rest time is over.

Today's topic is Award Shows, since we're in the midst of Award Show Season.

Now I'm sort of ambivalent about award shows. When I was a junior Toad, I lived for them. I was a total One Club junkie, dragging myself to every event Mary Warlick dreamed up, seeing every client imprecation to make the logo bigger or add an extra word to a headline as yet another ad lost to the books. I worshiped everything Fallon or Chiat did, pored over the annuals like a Talmudic scholar, and generally looked down upon anyone who didn't have (at least) a finalist certificate to their name.

But that was then.

Now I see the awards shows for what they are: a chance to celebrate the fairly uniform taste of a bunch of well-paid early-30-something males with the sophisticated sensibilities of the urban hipster, e.g. the creative directors who judge the One Show, D&AD, CA and the like.

I mean really, look at what wins.

They're generally good ads, cleverly written, with beautiful art direction. But they all appeal to a very specific demographic. Play off of things that are funny or cool or absurd to that demographic.

Which would all be well and good, only most products are not marketed to that demographic. My mother and her posse, if they were to judge The One Show, would no doubt reward Kaplan Thaler handsomely. Along with Arnell or Laird of some other fashion agency. That's what speaks to them-- the Burger King, for instance, leaves them baffled. The Tadpoles, on the other hand, would give pencils to anything with lots of crashing or major league sports heroes. If it's got Derek Jeter or Kobe Bryant in it, it's f-ing brilliant in their book.

My other beef is that the rise of the internet has made the one real benefit of award shows -- the ability to showcase great work you might not otherwise have seen-- obsolete. I can go on AdCritic, AdFreak and dozens of other sites and see all that.

Which leaves awards shows with the sole contribution of helping up-and-coming agencies enhance their reputations.

I also wonder what steps they can really take to prevent fake entries these days. In the pre-internet era, they'd demand proof that a spot really ran (hence the urban legend of the One Show spots that all ran, just once, on Dec. 31st in Nome, Alaska.) But what constitutes "running" these days? The fact that it's up on You Tube? A live url? Seems like it would be pretty easy to do that yourself.

Anyway, it's good to be back. Looking forward to the conversation.


HighJive said...

Not convinced the sole contribution of awards shows is to help up-and-coming agencies enhance their reputations. The glut of shows has lessened the value of awards. And as you’ve noted, the quality of the work has diminished over the years. Hell, would people even want to rush the stage to steal a Clio anymore?

You make an interesting point regarding the diversity of demographics. Who is to say what a great ad is these days? Too bad the judging panels continue to lack diversity (and sorry, but international juries does not equal diversity).

I’m most turned off by awards shows that are primarily driven by making profits. And could someone please explain the thinking behind hiring third-rate MCs to host the local galas? Tony Little starred at the last Chicago awards show. Why would anyone want to receive an advertising award from a washed-up personal trainer?

Alan Wolk said...

Tony Little. That's incredible.

You're right in saying that awards shows have become less discriminating as of late. Even the One Show jumped the shark... can you say "One Show Rx?"

And giving Silver Pencils to "so easy even a frat boy could do it" campaigns about extra-large condoms doesn't help their cause either.

When a small agency is doing good creative work, it helps them to be able to say "look at all the awards we've won." Doesn't help careers all that much unless you've done something that sweeps every show and even then, in the time of AdCritic, do you really need a Lion ?

Sidebar: Today's WSJ has a full page ad from the One Show identifying this year's winners. In very very small type. Not sure if anyone who reads the WSJ and is not an advertising creative could give a flying fuck, given that they have never heard of the One Show. While *we* all know better, Clio is the show people outside the business all recognize

Anonymous said...

toad, not much to say but--GREAT post. again, an honest insightful take on this biz.

Alan Wolk said...

Thank you John.

I'm a complete sucker for reader comments like that. And they make the whole blogging thing worth it.