Creative awards schemes should stand for creativity as an end in itself. But the bigger industry players prefer a purpose narrative that keeps them on top.
We were looking at the Design Week results yesterday and thinking about this (and, naturally, anticipating your take). Everything that did well is for a "good cause" of some kind. I think good causes carried some fairly weak work too, although that's very subjective.
I surprised myself by preferring your second speech. Not because this situation is ideal, but because it's pragmatic and (more) honest. I don't think we're every going to stop people judging work based on their own moral compass, however much we might want them to. Asking them to "push in that direction" leaves it open to each judge to decide how far. Creative awards are always going to be a crapshoot; pretending that you can isolate the craft or the creativity feels disingenuous to me.
I worked at one of these awards shows for a long time in the awards and judging teams.
We never talked about purpose to the jury, we explained the judging process and asked them to find the best work.
What often happened afterwards was the jury president making a case for 'finding the best work that contributed to society. Creativity is at it's best when it has an impact on society and the world at large etc.'
Most fellow jurors chime in.
The results/ awards are a reflection of the industry leaders more than anything else. As you say, Nick, this suits their careers, companies and clients.
For next year, as soon as the juries are announced, send these two speeches to them and hopefully we'll make 'em lean on creativity
The “cuckoo” analogy is so apt - wish I’d thought of it! It will be interesting to see how things go next year with inflation and the cost-of-living crisis hits in and people’s priorities change. I agree that the Apple Underdogs winning is cheering - especially as this is part of a longer-running campaign rather than a one-off.
You rightly point out that those who do "purely creative and commercial work" are aggrieved that their work is being ignored.
It's no wonder.
Just compare the effort and expertise that goes into creating an award winning piece of work with a) commercial purpose and b) social purpose.
a) Commercial Purpose: Take the marketing problem brief from the client ... write a consumer facing brief with a clear proposition that encapusalates the benefit to be derived from the brand/product/service and why the prospect would want it in their lives ... get the client to understand the significance of that proposition and sign it off ... get the creatives to stick to that brief and come up with an idea that, within budget, dramatises/demonstrates the proposition ... sell that idea to what is often a risk averse and conservative client ... help them sell the idea upwards within their organisation ... protect the integrity of the idea through all the stages of production and deliver it on budget until it finally appears in front of the prospect - as originally envisaged by the agency team.
b) Social Purpose: Find a trending issue and attach your brand to that issue.
You don't even have to struggle to ensure that the issue is in any way related to the brand you are promoting. Any issue will do. It does, however, help if you have tons of money to throw at the project. Need an example? The Sheba Hope work. Do you see much evidence of a creative team's involvement? Nope, me neither.
Thanks Nick, a good read and I agree with much of it; the exasperating moral self-flattery, its arbitrary nature, the sense that anyone who hasn't got the purpose memo and isn't loudly cheering for the new orthodoxy is by default a reactionary. Yet I found myself voting for the speech which I see put me in a small minority.
There's a couple of things I tripped up on, & a general sense of wondering when the tangible results of all the creativity might be scrutinized. We live in a democracy, if a campaign for a gun manufacturer is 'creative' and backed up with results then why shouldn't they win an award for it?
On the other hand, when I read, "If you’re entering a campaign for a discount fashion chain, be aware that essentially juries might not want to encourage your kind of work," my instinctive reaction was, "good!". And that's specifically because of the proven systemic environmental damage of the entire business model. So then I was thinking, unless the fashion chain could prove their creativity on a measure of customer satisfaction per unit of environmental impact, and beat everyone else on score.
Similarly with the crypto Superbowl ads, tbh honest I was nauseated by the agency self-congratulation for something that's obviously a Ponzi scheme for unregulated securities, that from reports I've seen over-indexed in poorer, less educated communities.
So I don't quite know where I'm netting out, perhaps I'm more ambivalent in part because I really do think there is a evidence based fundamental problem with how markets are operating and we must take some responsibility for that, which for me means it can't just revert back to judging creativity 'neutrally'. But, it's above my pay grade!
Long(ish)-time reader, first-time commentator. 2 points to make. 1) if people working in marketing and advertising had a better understanding of how the machinery works, and doesn't work, to create value for individuals, companies, societies and economies, we wouldn't have to suffer all the purpose-y sanctimony. But since we don't believe in the work we do, we have to find some other way of doing it to feel less shitty, it seems. 2) I've judged thousands of award entries claiming some kind of effectiveness - IMHO the "for good" stuff has always gotten a free pass (in part due to the syndrome noted in item #1). It'd be very interesting if we looked only at long-term impact - my bet is, most of these cases would evaporate, and their "impact" claims along with them. Not to say they couldn't still be judged purely on their creative merits, just that we should be honest about the game being played. Which I guess was your main point to begin with!