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

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. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.