I’m writing this on a flight back from Delhi, after witnessing a wonderful debate featuring fantastic, informed perspectives on creative awards and one-offs therein. So perhaps my opinion is clouded.
But then, any opinion expressed by someone in this space has to be clouded given the quantum of opinion we have heard on the business of awards, business of advertising, and everything in between and some things beyond.
I do hope that if my opinion is clouded, it is by shades of the past that reflect on the present with an eye on the future. I hope that I am not overtly influenced by a one-off Goafest that has brought all creative awards and creative people in advertising under the scanner. Because unfortunately, the ad world and anyone on its periphery seem to have put on glares that black out anything but scams, ‘one-offs’ and the like. The cacophony against some errant ‘one-offs’ is as forget-worthy as some caricatures of Berlusconi-esque activities.
The topic for the IAA Debates Delhi was: ‘Creative awards can also be given for differentiated one-off expressions’. And the team speaking ‘FOR’ the motion won on the evening. One could argue that the verdict depended on the composition of the audience. But given the nature and volume of feedback that we’re getting, I’m convinced that there is merit in the motion.
Beyond the compelling arguments that were made for and against, here are some of my humble submissions on why creative awards deserve their place under the sun.
That there are distinct creative awards and effectiveness awards has been said many times over. Yes, each has a distinct role. And each has a process designed to help it fulfil that role.
In forums such as the IAA Debates and beyond, it has been argued that advertising is not art for art’s sake, making the case for creative awards that much more difficult to defend. The arguments are that advertising is a mix of art and science that has to create preference for the brand. That it has to help the brand sell. Points. Taken. So how does advertising help a brand sell?
By saying that the brand is better. By saying that the brand is a better choice underlining rational benefits, using emotional appeal, compellingly, attractively, engagingly, the list goes on. So how does one do all this? When does the most rational of benefits register best? When it is said in the most engaging manner possible. When the message is such that it renders the consumer receptive to it. When it is nuanced to convince even as it cuts forcefully through the clutter.
Isn’t that why marketers hire professionals? And who are the professionals who can say it best? The advertising agency guys, perhaps? And how does an ad agency manage to create this magic? Through the power of the creative and the reach and impact of media?
How does an agency keep getting better at producing this creative? By understanding the client’s brand better, possibly? And by bettering its craft?
How does an agency get better at its craft? By getting the best of people, the best craftsmen, perhaps? And providing them a creative environment that allows them to hone their craft to deliver consumer delight on behalf of brands?
How does one recognise if one is getting better at the ideation and the craft? Who decides what is better as a creative output? Creative minds, perhaps? Is peer endorsement the way out?
Let’s not undermine the institution of creative awards. They have a critical role to play.
I am by no means making the case for ‘unapproved work’, ‘inspired creatives’ and the like. Legitimate work that pushes the boundaries and opens up the mind to possibilities must be unleashed. And creative awards must celebrate them.