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Why Awards Matter!

Why Awards Matter!

Aisling White, festival director of The Kinsale Sharks, explains why ad awards are worth their weight in golds.


It must be Springtime.

The daffodils have bloomed, trees everywhere are in bud, the days are growing longer and warmer, and the advertising tribes of the world are again asking themselves if awards actually matter.


Aisling White, festival director of The Kinsale Shark Awards


We do this every year, you see, and have done so pretty much since some bright spark first thought of giving out gongs for good work. And we do it at this time of year because it’s ‘Call for Entries’ time for some of the world’s bigger shows.

So, let’s briefly re-state the arguments in favour of awards, which, for the most part, are the same as they ever were:

Awards offer a valuable proxy for the worth of creative people, creative teams and their agencies - arguably better than any other measurement - especially if an agency’s awards performance is spread across a variety of its clients and over a good period of time. No sensible agency or client hires a team based on awards alone, but there are far worse places to start.


"Awards matter, because awards are about competition and competition is the engine of improvement in every single human endeavour."


Awards motivate creative people more viscerally than effectiveness does. And that’s not merely a forgivable indulgence, it’s downright marvellous - because the creativity and originality assessed by good awards shows are the means by which effectiveness happens. Agencies and their clients would be better served if all of their people, not just the capital C creative people, were motivated in the same way.

Ultimate effectiveness is a pretty tough thing to measure directly. In a nutshell, when the sun shines, more ice cream is sold. How do you strip the atmospherics out of the effectiveness equation? With great difficulty.


Image result for dog eating icecream in the heat


Advertising (in which we may include everything from print to film to design and beyond, as all are fundamentally about commercial persuasion) can be evaluated as a product in its own right: if the strategy is at least insightful, professional judges will see that. If the actual creative ‘leap’ is significant and in the right direction, professional judges will discern that. If the execution of that idea shows elegance, polish and craft, professional judges will appreciate that.

And if all of those things are present and correct, you can bet your marketing budget that consumers will appreciate it too. Not in quite the same de-constructed, expert-eyeballs kind of way, but rather because they just like the result more. As in ‘don’t ask me why I like it, I just do’.


Image result for adidas versus nike


For me, though, the killer argument is this: awards matter, because awards are about competition and competition is the engine of improvement in every single human endeavor. Competition (with Russia) put Americans on the moon. Competition (between The Human Genome Project and Celera Genomics) sliced years out of the race to map the human genome. Competition (with adidas) propelled Nike into its globally dominant position. And internal competition (with its own crazy-good body of work for Nike) continues to drive Wieden+Kennedy.


Image result for gladiator pugil sticks


I’m reminded at this point of an old Saatchi & Saatchi commercial for Dunlop, the pivotal premise of which was “Imagine a world without Dunlop”. Folks angling for the extinction of awards festivals would do well to ponder a version of that question.


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