The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Who Is Fooling Who?

Being old, I’ve done more than my fair share of judging awards.

I enjoy it.

Yes it’s a major investment in terms of time, but when you come across an absolutely devastatingly good submission, it’s worth every second.

However it is also fair to say that over the years, there have been some real painful experiences. Either in terms of average papers being seemingly entered into every category in a bid to increase the odds of winning something or papers that have such a strong scent of scam, even Ray Charles can see how suspect they are. [Sorry Mr Charles]

I always laugh when I come across those. Specially at the agencies submitting them … because while they obviously think they are geniuses – or the judges are idiots – the reality is they’re wrong on both counts.

But here’s the thing, people can slag off awards all they like, but they matter.

For Colenso for example, they’re important.

We’re a small agency on the other side of the planet and being able to show our creativity and effectiveness is vitally important to keep demonstrating our validity to attract global clients.

But – and it’s a big but – it only works if its real.

And that only works if all the winners around it are also real.

Now I appreciate that different clients have different needs and budgets.

I appreciate different markets have different cultural traits, behaviours and media.

I absolutely appreciate some entries use a language that is not their native tongue.

And I think that is all brilliant – though I also think none-native English speakers are at an immediate disadvantage and the award organisers should be looking at ways to change that.

However, if you need to write 8456738585463 words to explain your problem or your idea or your insight or your results … you’re not helping yourself.

Nor are you if you are using the pandemic as your strategies main adversary – often followed up with the words, ‘how do we grow in an era of the new normal?’.

Of course I am not doubting the pandemic has caused havoc among categories of business all over the world. It’s definitely happened to me too. But if we don’t explain what the challenge is – how it has affected behaviour or values or distribution or competition or anything other than it ‘made things more difficult’ … then it’s as lazy as the time I judged the Effies in the US when Trump came to power and the opening line of 85% of all submissions was:

How do we bring a nation divided together?

[My fave was when a whisky brand used that as their creative challenge. HAHAHAHA]

I take the judging seriously because I want the awards to be valued.

I want the awards to be valued because I want the industry to be valued.

And I want the industry to be valued because I want clients to win, creativity to win and the people coming up behind me to have a chance of taking us all to better and more interesting places that we’re at right now.

And I believe they can if we don’t fuck up the chance for them.

I get awards are nice to have.

I get they can drive business and payrises.

But if we keep allowing bullshit a chance to shine – and let’s face it, we have time and time again – then all we’re doing is fucking ourselves over.

I’m fine with failure.

In fact I’m very, very comfortable with it.

Especially when it’s because someone has tried to do something audacious for all the right reasons … because even if it doesn’t come off, it’s opened the door to other things we may never have imagined. There’s even real commercial value to that.

But when agencies create, hijack or exploit problems to just serve their own means – then fuck them. Maybe – just maybe – if they did it at a scale that could make a real difference, you’d be prone to encourage it. But when it’s done to achieve just what is needed to let the creators win an award … then frankly, the organisers and judges have a moral obligation to call it out.

Asia gets a bad wrap for this. And over the years that has been deserved, but I can tell you no market is immune. Hell, I’ve even seen some in NZ recently – or one in particular – and what made it worse was it wasn’t even any good.

But as rubbish as that example was, at least it didn’t stoop to the levels we have seen previously.

Let’s remember it’s only 4 years ago an agency WON MAJOR AWARDS for an app they said could help save refugees on boats by tracking them in the sea … only for them to then claim – when later called out – that the app was in beta testing hence the information being sent back to users was not real.

Amazingly ignoring the fact they didn’t say that in any of their entry submissions and if they had, they wouldn’t have been eligible for the awards they entered in the first place.

Creativity can do amazing things.

Advertising can do amazing things.

But we fuck it up when we put the superficial on the podium.

Of course, this is not just an agency problem. Clients are also part of this. Because if they let agencies do what they are great at rather than treating them as a subservient production partner … maybe we’d not just see more interesting work, but even more interesting and valuable brands.


17 Comments so far
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Good post Robert. I think the key is awards count when they are the byproduct of good work not the goal.

Comment by George

and what the award is for, who it is from and who the fuckers were on the jury.

Comment by andy@cynic

Yep … that’s a good point too Andy. Surprisingly, Hahahaha.

Comment by Rob

When I raise this point in my agency they look at me like an alien.

Comment by Mauro

Every scam ad that gets awarded undermines the awards that have been won properly. I am amazed the industry doesn’t come down harder on those flaunting the rules. But then the award organisers want the fees so if they’re too strict they will lose too much revenue.

Comment by Pete

because the award fuckers are greedy.

Comment by andy@cynic

A relationship built on complicity.

Comment by George

the fuckers that did that boat shit should be put on one, dropped in the middle of the sea and made to live the shit they faked for a fucking award. wankers.

Comment by andy@cynic

Yep … I was so angry.

I remember being in a jury with the head of planning who was on that ‘campaign’ and I openly asked the organisers why he was there given his track record. [He was involved in a whole lot more scam campaigns … including one that was being judged in our session, that I had thrown out by asking for certain proof points they couldn’t deliver]

Unsurprisingly he took offence to that and said it was all a misunderstanding … to which I replied, “yes it was, because there’s no way you should be invited on this jury”.

It was an interesting day. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

almost proud of you campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

Winning friends wherever you go.

Comment by Pete

Well said Robert.
And Andrew.

Comment by Lee Hill

Is NZ scam as good as Asia scam?

Comment by DH

No where near as sophisticated. It was like it had a flashing red bulb around it saying “THIS IS SCAM FOR AWARDS”. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

fucking amateurs.

Comment by andy@cynic

To be fair, they’ve had less practice. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

No scam is as bad as argo winning the best picture oscar.

Comment by Billy Whizz




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