Using That Gold Pencil As A Back Scratcher

Over at Ad Age’s The Big Tent Cat Lopez makes the surprisingly honest admission that he has to butter up other people in order to win awards.

I’ve been on a few awards juries, and they’ve all been great experiences, if not for the advertising itself as much as the lessons I’ve learned in human behavior. If an agency is on a hot streak and winning awards left and right, they usually get the benefit of the doubt for weaker submissions. They might get a bronze for something that should have stayed on the shortlist, or something that should have taken a bronze receives a silver. Because it comes from a hotshop, it must be good and must be awarded. Kudos to the agency for creating such a mystique; who doesn’t want to be in that position? Of course, that will eventually work against you. I’ve seen juries try to cool off a hot shop by making sure they don’t win the best of show for example. Not letting the competition get too much ink is also part of the lobbying process.
On the flip side are the not-so-creative agencies that never get any ink. Even a bad agency can do good work from time to time, but many of those agencies have a hard time getting their work onto the shortlist, the logic being they aren’t very creative, and therefore everything they do must suck. It happens. All the lobbying in the world won’t help these agencies until they begin to consistently deliver solid work. And even then, they still need to lobby.

Could you change this if you could prevent any award show judge from letting their own agency enter that show?
I think we’ll see a ban on lobbying for awards in the ad industry on the same day we see a ban on lobbying in Washington D.C.
In other words, never.

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. The rich get richer. It’s a fundamental law in advertising, as it is in life.

  2. here’s a solution. if your agency—or a shop in your network—has a submission, you are banned from being on the judging panel. to take it further, anyone from an award-winning shop should not be allowed to join a judging panel. after all, if the work is outstanding, even a hack from a shitty shop should be able to recognize it, right? so let’s let the hacks judge the work. it will also provide them with up-close incentive to do better themselves. hey, this is an award-winning idea!