Even more truth about industry awards: how we move forward

I’ve judged, hosted and attended more awards ceremonies than I care to remember. In part two of my awards polemic (read part one here), let’s take a look at the last two arguments for and against their existence.

There are too many awards.

I suspect your view on this comes down to whether you’ve won an award recently or not. To my mind, there needs to be a happy medium.

Having too few awards means that its harder for smaller companies or niche disciplines to get recognised. Too many awards and there is potentially an argument that winning loses it value. The better organisers understand this.

Lynn Lester, Head of Events at The Drum, told me that “The issue that faces the industry is what weight of credibility the accolade carries and that becomes increasingly important when budgets are being squeezed. 

Award organisers need to work hard at ensuring the reputation of the awards is riding high and that the perception of value is in line with what the market is willing to invest.”

This approach makes sense and thus makes you wonder why there have been so many high-profile incidents of inappropriate and sexist entertainment and pay-to-play judging opportunities.

If you don’t value the profile of your own awards, why should anybody else.

A great idea will always stand out and be rewarded.

Not always. You have to put the effort in. Some companies are great at entering awards. Other aren’t. You can tell when it’s been palmed off onto the office junior.

Good companies understand that judges might look at dozens of entries per category and frankly they get tired and sometimes bored. If you’ve been judging for hours and another uninspiring Word doc is up against an entry that’s been well designed and thoughtfully put together, there’s really no contest.

As Lynn says, “Put yourself in the judges’ shoes – they are about to plough through a ton of, often very wordy, submissions, so the number one job is to make their life easy and get them interested right from the get-go.

If there is an executive summary at the beginning, then treat it with extra care and really lay out your stall.  This should be where the judges should be thinking ‘I can’t wait to find out how they did that”.

The awards sector does need to think about how it moves forward. There are too many schemes and the prevailing model is outdated. New innovative formats need to be considered (more Chip Shop Awards, less Park Lane), the entry process needs to be streamlined and the judging more open and transparent.

That being said, awards are a deeply rooted part of our industry, a highlight for any agency or tech vendor lucky enough to win one and can make the career for an individual if they are recognized.

I would urge the media owners and event organisers to be brave. Scrap the schemes that are outdated and you struggle to produce. We can tell when you’ve cut the costs! Create schemes around the new technologies and disciplines our sector is constantly producing.

Awards are an essential part of our industry’s ecosystem. Of course, they’ll always have their detractors but approach them with a clearly defined strategy and expectations and they’ll be worth the, often considerable, time and money it takes to play a part.

And most of all, good luck!

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