Pay To Play Or Go Away

Stephanie Clifford of The New York Times and Ian Schafer of Deep Focus made me laugh this morning.
This is what did it:

When Ian Schafer, the chief executive of the digital ad agency Deep Focus, won 10 Communicator Awards for the agency’s work on Web sites, including one for HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords,” he was delighted.
He was less thrilled when he received a note from the awards: If he wanted the actual trophies, he would have to spend $1,590.
“When you have to pay for the trophy,” he said, “that seems a little egregious.”

Schafer adds that he won’t pay for the hardware and the request to do so “just draws attention to the fact that the awards business is a business.”
Indeed. A business that is kept alive by the thousands of insecure creative people in advertising who believe yet another award will help them land a promotion, raise or new job. It’s sad to see, but it’s a reality perpetuated day in and day out and one very few ad peeps escape from.
For instance, Publicis In the West, an agency looking to hire a CD and ACD, puts it plainly enough:

Experience at top creative advertising agencies with a reel and awards to match.

It’s a club and you either belong to it or you don’t. As for club dues to cover costs, I don’t have a problem with it. Paying for the trophies won is like paying for a shoe shine after lunch at The Yale Club.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Hear ya.. This is stupid. Paying an entry fee should garnish the door stop. Award shows EARN money from all the people that don’t win to afford the trophy. Cheap show!
    My advice. Don’t play or just enter the recognized shows: One Show, CA, Cannes, Etc.

  2. True story. Worked at an agency where my team won an award. When I asked creative management for trophies to be given to each person responsible for the work, they replied, “Sorry, we could only afford to buy two trophies.”