Jeff Goodby Doth Protest Too Much

The latest voice to chime in about the increasing triviality of awards shows is Jeff Goodby, writing in Ad Age:

It’s fast becoming clear that the majority of things we’re rewarding, as an industry, are either small or marginal efforts for legitimate clients, things we made for real clients that the clients seem not to have ever heard of, or out-and-out fakes.
Some of these projects are well-intentioned since, at the very least, they are meant to “inspire” us when we work on bigger, better-paying accounts. But without getting into whether this kind of activity is immoral or just plain chickenshit, I’d like to point out a graver toll it’s taking on us all: It’s making our business less famous. Less fun. Less public. Less about any of the reasons you probably got into it in the first place.
We’ve created a system that rewards work that is increasingly unknown to anyone outside the business. We have become connoisseurs of esoterica. And in the process, we’re becoming more about us, and less about changing the world.

Goodby and his agency have done a tremendous amount of work that’s been both wonderfully memorable and award-winning. But someone of his accomplishment and stature doesn’t need these shows. I think he oughta save his entry fee money, give it back to employees as bonuses, and keep a website updated where the best work of his agency can be displayed with full credits–including the brave clients who approved the ideas. In 2009, that’s all you need to spread the word for your creatives and your clients.
In the article, he calls for judges to take into account the “sheer famousness” of a piece of work. Which means big clients with big budgets. Or work that floods the pages of Creativity and Adweek, the result of agency PR efforts. It’s fine to reward great big ideas that pervade the national consciousness, but it also leaves many of smaller and mid-sized agencies and their smaller clients unrepresented. Is Jeff implying that they’re less worthy?
Let’s face it, awards shows are prevalent because many people use them as THE primary yardstick to measure creative talent. Goodby has a history of hiring award show winners fresh off their wins. Would his agency hire anyone that hadn’t found some way into an awards show? The reason people try to scam these shows is because Goodby, and other agencies of their stature, seek out and reward the people who win the awards whether those ads actually ran or were effective or whatever. Rarely does anyone get shamed for scam ads or two-page spread ads for Chutes and Ladders–they get promoted instead.
It used to be, pre-internet, that only a few times a year–the CA annual in December, the One Show book, to cite two examples–was when advertising people really got a good look at what’s going on around the world. Today, we see it all, instantly on the web, if we want to. We are all the judges of advertising work. We don’t need juries of pasty-faced white male Creative Directors to legitimize it anymore.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Stephen says:

    Amen, Danny G. Very well said.

  2. Aren’t ad agencies famous in that more of the general public know the player’s names today than they did 20 years ago because the internet is doing its work to splatter agency names all over general interest articles?

  3. It doesn’t matter what Jeff Goodby thinks about Cannes, it matters that Rich Silverstein in there right now riding his bike through the hills and judging work in his spare time. It matters that GS&P spent thousands of dollars entering work into the show, again.
    Actions speak, not words.

  4. Geez. News flash: AWARDS SHOWS UNFAIR.
    I’ve been over awards shows for a long time now. And over being “famous” even longer. Oh brother. What Goodby is complaining about is true — but it’s certainly nothing new. It’s been true for at least the 20 years I’ve been in the business. After seeing tons of really good, really smart, really effective work for the sorts of BtoB and technology clients I’ve typically worked with get ignored in awards shows for fabricated pro bono work, I moved on from caring about that crap long ago.
    I never waste any money or energy entering awards shows. And certainly never consider it when making hires. Frankly, if a creative director needs an award show to tell him or her if someone’s work is good, and can’t see it just by looking at someone’s book, then that person isn’t qualified for their job. And a marketing person who hires an agency based on the awards an agency has won is equally unqualified for their job.
    I might even feel some empathy with Goodby on this issue if their agency wasn’t one of those that has played the awards show game to the hilt to their benefit since they started. So, yes, totally agree, he does protest too much.

  5. It'sallgood says:

    Boy did you miss the point.
    Goodby isn’t having a go at awards. He’s having a go at work designed purely to be entered into awards.
    Try not to shoot the messenger. It’s a timely message.

  6. @it’sallgood – you’re right, Goodby does seem to be speaking specifically about the weakness in fake work and work made intentionally to win awards. i commend that. but i also like that danny g. ran further with the ball to ask a bigger question–why Goodby needs awards at all?

  7. it'sallgood says:

    Everyone loves to win awards. And agencies that win awards attract great talent that wins more awards. And the cycle continues.
    But when agencies and individuals are so obsessed their focus is on award entries not their clients, the whole thing is skewed.
    I think it’s great someone of Jeff Goodby’s stature has raised this issue.
    Good for him to put a spotlight on it. It doesn’t mean he or his agency will stop entering awards for real work done on real clients.

  8. @It’sallgood
    Well, I don’t think I missed the point. I’m trying to make a larger point. If Jeff Goodby thinks there’s weakness in fake work, he needs to also address why fake work has become such a supposedly big problem. And it’s a problem largely because of the emphasis that’s put on awards by nearly everyone in the ad business-including him and his agency. It’s a system we’re all part of.

  9. it'sallgood says:

    Danny G
    I don’t think Jeff Goodby HAS to do anything. He made his point.
    GS+P does real work for real clients and sometimes they win awards for that work. Which makes Mr Goodby pretty well qualified to speak out.
    I am part of the system too. And fake work that wins heaps of awards shits me.