Are award shows a waste of time and money?
Shared by admin Sunday, June 26, 2011

There are many awards shows in the world of advertising. Oh, sorry, it’s not “advertising” anymore,
it’s . . . well it’s just whatever. There’s the One Show, the Clios, the D&AD, the Andy Awards, The Addys. The list goes on and on. A few million dollars are spent every year entering work into the ever-growing list of categories at these competitions. But for sheer glamour and glitz, there’s one show that stands head and shoulders above the rest – Cannes.

The Cannes Lions Festival, advertising’s largest and most lavish awards competition, is taking place this week (6/20) in the south of France. Literally, thousands of creatives, agency executives and clients from around the world are in attendance. During the day, attendees view the creative entries at various venues around the festival. (Or hangout on the beach.) At night, they eat, drink and party into the wee hours. Judges, usually senior creative directors, spend hours appraising the entries and voting for their favorites. The winners in each category receive a Lion -the awards are literally in the shape of a Lion’s head. The best of the best receive the “Grand Prix” designation. Come Saturday evening, the festival wraps up with an extravagant closing gala that’s followed by lavish after-parties hosted by agencies, client organizations and production companies.

As you can imagine, all of this costs a fortune. Just the ticket to the entire event goes for 2,200 euros. (About $3,300) On top of that, there are all the additional expenses; airfare, accommodations, food and drinks, etc. (Gather the world’s top creatives and executives at a party on the beach in the South of France, and it’s safe to say there’s quite a bit of food and drink consumed at Cannes.) So is it all worth it? Does the fame and publicity of winning a Lion payoff? Obviously, a lot of people think so. Award-winning agencies walk away with free publicity that can attract new business. Creatives can parlay their awards into pay raises or new jobs with higher salaries. And clients win bragging rights for themselves and their companies’ marketing efforts. Still, you have to wonder. How long does the fame last? A year or two from now will anyone remember who won the 2011 Cyber Lion?

To be fair, Cannes actually is more than an orgy of award giving and carousing. There’s a full schedule of seminars discussing topics that range from the newest technology and media, to showcases for up and coming directors; and a student competition, which provides a venue for young rising talent to be seen by top industry players. Still, in a time of economic distress and high unemployment, couldn’t some of that money be put to better use? There are a lot of bright, talented young people out there looking for a job. The cost of sending a couple of creative directors to Cannes would easily cover the cost of hiring a junior graphic designer or media assistant.

I think awards shows play an important role in our business. They help set the bar for creative work in a time where the latest app often overshadows the importance of great concepts and innovative new ideas. And despite the criticism of creative for creative’s sake, there’s a high correlation between award winning work and sales results. Many shows, like Cannes, have acknowledged this by adding a category that honors effectiveness. (At the end of the day this is still a business, is it not) Maybe what bothers me about the shows, and especially Cannes, is the inflated value that has been placed on them. There’s no getting around the ego factor that’s at the heart of all of these events. It’s all becoming too big and too self-important. A little bit like our business in general. Just a thought.