It's for hitting the ball the least number of times.
I have a problem with the advertising creative awards.
I admit it.
I don't like 'em.
In fact, I think they're having a negative effect on the advertising business (and by that I include everything - what you might call traditional, digital, everything).
Now, I like the idea of awards, I think that rewarding excellence is a good thing.
It can only encourage people to strive to do better, right?
So why do I have a problem with the advertising creative awards?
I spent my 'formative' ad years at an agency that didn't enter them, the CD there at the time was (is) one the smartest dudes in advertising, he thought they were a crock.
He'd won a sackful himself, incidentally.
We (the juniors at the time) all thought it was a little bit unfair because our bosses had built their careers partly on being award-winning creatives, but now they were in that position were stopping us from entering them.
But now I thank that policy greatly, because although we didn't realise it at the time, all we were concerned about was doing the best we could on each brief. We weren't thinking at the back of our minds 'would this win' or 'will I get a piece of awards-friendly work out of this brief?'
It gave me a perspective on the business of advertising much wider than just having creative awards as a benchmark.
Since then, I've experienced going to the awards, and won a couple of spangly things in the process, so what's my problem? After all, if you're winning them, what's to complain about, right?
As I said, I like the idea of awards, I think that rewarding excellence is a good thing.
But looking at them now, how they are in our ad business today, I think they stink.
I think they've lost the plot.
I don't think they reward excellence in advertising creativity, I think they reward some kind of separate, abstract notion of creativity.
Now as an advertising creative, I'll admit I'm a disciple of the Bernbach, Lois, Gossage, school, where the creativity is there for a reason. Where "Our job is to sell our clients' merchandise... not ourselves. Our job is to kill the cleverness that makes us shine instead of the product. Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message." Where "You are not right if in your ad you stand a man on his head just to get attention. You are right if you have him on his head to show how your product keeps things from falling out of his pockets."
I think that an ad should look brutally simple if brutally simple is the best way to get a message across, that it should be beautiful if the the sole reason for that beauty is that it will make us understand or read or remember that message better. I'll take a simple, five hundred word ad that made me think differently about something, over an ad with no words and pretty picture that made me laugh but didn't communicate. I think that the only reason for creativity in advertising is to make it work harder.
I want an ad to make you think "what a great product" rather than "what a great ad".
But these days, the kind of work that ad awards celebrate tends to be the self-indulgent stuff that wears its creativity on its sleeve. That makes you think, ooh that's clever. That's funny, or weird, or a great piece of film. Creative, but only for its own sake. Not for a reason.
It's a real negative thing for the ad business, because it places ad creatives who want to win creative awards at odds with the reason that clients came to their agencies in the first place. There's a conflict between 'creativity' and 'product' that shouldn't exist. Creatives and client are pulling in the opposite direction, and that is doing two bad things: 1. It's making clients (rightly) skeptical about the motivations of the people creating their advertising, and 2. Marginalising creatives in the business to a point where they are seen as dilettantes.
I don't know when it happened, because I look at some old advertising awards annuals and I see great advertising work that is brilliantly creative, but in a different way to most of the award winning work of today. And I'm not just talking about the difference of style and trends. It's advertising that works harder because of its creativity. Then I look at award-winning work of today and I see all style and no substance, I see creativity for its own sake. Cleverness that dwarfs or outshines the product.
The work that won awards in the 60's and 70's is creative for a reason. Somewhere, sometime, maybe over time, that's changed.
I don't know why, was it just tiny, imperceptible changes over time?
Is it just a symptom of agencies getting bigger, jobs being compartmentalised, creatives being moved into a creative bubble, detached from the process?
Is it a by-product of the slow but persistent middle-class-English-man-ising of the ad business - the universal embarrassment at selling, the need to pretend that we're doing something else?
I dunno, but it sure does stink the place out.
And I guess that brings me to something of a conclusion.
It turns out that I do like actually like creative awards.
I just really don't like the kind of work you have to do to win 'em these days.
I don't think it's great advertising.