Since getting back from the Goafest, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to CEOs, junior copywriters, NCDs, CDs, and middle level suits from agencies that won Abbys, agencies that didn’t win an Abby and agencies that didn’t take part. An overwhelming view is that there is intense unhappiness about the fact that Luxor won the Grand Prix. And that is patently unfair to Leo Burnett. Leo Burnett sent in an entry which met the rules defined by the Abbys committee and that entry was deemed by the jury as deserving to be recognized as the best in the land during the year. The rules were not made by Leo Burnett. The rules were made by the seniormost professionals in adland. Rules that Leo Burnett stared at, understood and saw opportunities with. For a moment, let’s forget the Luxor campaign and move on to McCann Erickson and the Hanes controversy. An ad is released for Hanes in the Free Press Journal (scamland’s favourite publication) that Hanes knew nothing about.
The ad offends the gay community, the Afro-American community and all the communities that it mentions. There is outrage from Hanes when the ad is brought to their attention. After expressing shock at the “excitement” of a young team that created and released this ad, Prasoon Joshi is quoted (in the Economic Times, my favourite publication for adland scams) as saying “Our regular ads are incapable of making it big internationally. Hence all agencies stoop to one-off advertising”. That’s not true. All agencies do not stoop to one-off advertising. At least in Leo Burnett’s case the paperwork was in order. But the Leo Burnett and McCann instances point to a larger malaise that the one-off advertising causes at award shows.
Any award show in any category is respected only when losers accept that they have lost to a better entry, to a better man, to a better product. That is clearly not the case with the Abbys. The important aspect to focus on, then, is not the fact that Leo Burnett won with Luxor, but the fact that the Abbys lost with Luxor. If rules in a game are such that the game itself and not one of the players loses, it is time to look hard at the rules and change them. It is regular advertising that needs to win awards and not one-offs and scams, Prasoon. Regular advertising like your own brilliant work for Happydent, work that is on air more than a year after it was first released.
Regular advertising like Aggie’s Nike commercial which is on air more than a year after it was first released. If the rules are not changed and continue to favour “proactive work” and one-offs and scams, next year will see more entries that “meet the rules” but offend the larger industry – perhaps to an extent that we see more agencies staying away from the Abbys. The winners could end up being work that none of us sees till the big Saturday when the awards are announced – and that cannot be a good thing for the industry. In the final analysis, it is the commercial or the print ad that the account executive worked on, the client saw and rejected and corrected, that the agency as a body toiled over to get right that needs to win. If such a piece of work wins, the agency that created it certainly deserves to win and will be the toast of even their competitors. More importantly, the Abbys will once again be the toast of adland.