Most advertising award shows are expensive navel-gazing affairs that miss the mark badly, which is particularly woeful news for an industry that prides itself on driving results from targeted marketing.
Given the problem, I was encouraged to learn that Wieden + Kennedy had recently considered giving up award shows. That would have been a brave thing for them to do, and it would have made a beneficial impact throughout the industry. But it didn’t happen. When the leaders of the agency brought the idea to the creative directors, they revolted.
“What it felt like was that a bunch of senior people had climbed a ladder that they were then pulling up behind themselves,” W+K CCO Colleen DeCourcy told Adweek today in Cannes. “Because it is true these creatives get promoted, get raises, get known by winning awards. It would be stealing part of their career path from them.”
The W+K team response, while uninspiring, is totally expected and understandable. People who work in advertising (especially at that level) know they need to win a Lion or Pencil, or there’s little point in putting up with the long hours, disrespectful clients, and backstabbing colleagues.
DeCourcy said, “These people want to be known. They want to be famous. They work hard enough, so they deserve it.”
Is that what ad people are working for, industry fame and its subsequent fortunes? The unequivocal answer from The Pearl District is yes. Yet, it’s such a limiting and damaging point of view. Maybe the enlightened leaders at W+K ought to pull up the rusty old success ladder and explain to their staff that they already work at the best shop in the business, which pretty much renders winning at Cannes pointless.
I think it’s worth asking if doctors, lawyers, and accountants also work to be famous, or if it’s a special problem facing advertising execs? For years, I’ve puzzled over the idea of glamour in our business. The idea is backed up by very little fact. Ad people do get to work in relatively nice confinement pens, and they enjoy some expense account travel. Once in a blue moon, they cast a Hollywood actor or hire a hot director. BFD.
The task before every ad pro could not be any clearer than it is. Serve the client’s customers, and by doing so solve the client’s marketing problems. Ad people are not supposed to be famous. That slot is clearly reserved for the client.