LETTERS

LETTERS to the editor should be accompanied by a home and business telephone number so that they may be verified. The editor reserves the right to edit letters for brevity if necessary.It's in the attitudeI read with interest your Special Report...

LETTERS to the editor should be accompanied by a home and business telephone number so that they may be verified. The editor reserves the right to edit letters for brevity if necessary.

It’s in the attitude

I read with interest your Special Report on Out-of-Home Media in the Aug. 9 issue and its growing popularity as a vehicle for innovative marketing ideas.

As an opposition party, we must use the most effective and efficient means possible to ‘market’ our alternative ideas and policy proposals in the face of the larger staffs and budgets of the ndp and Liberals.

For impact and cost-effectiveness, we have found that outdoor advertising is a powerful tool.

The important component, as your article states, is ‘attitude.’

For example, faced with the long-standing myth that all Tories are stodgy, middle-aged white males, my staff (which is anything but those adjectives) came up with a billboard campaign using actual staff members to illustrate the diversity and youthful attitude of the new ‘Team Harris’ Progressive Conservatives in Ontario.

Our campaign may not be as cutting-edge as many of those described in your article, but it is quite innovative for a political party in a province known for small- and large-C conservatism in its politics.

It also seems to be working, as calls are coming in steadily to our toll-free number here at Queen’s Park.

Of course, getting people’s attention is just the first step. The quality of our ideas, and the sincerity of our intentions will be the determining factors in winning people’s votes.

Michael D. Harris, MPP

Leader

Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario

Toronto

Advertising awards:

The reel issue

Every time the question of creative standards and award-related issues comes up, there rises in our midst a standard-bearer for ‘responsible advertising.’

On this occasion, David Martin has chosen to save us from ourselves.

Not wanting to rain on your parade, David, or in any way ruin the good soldier impression you have created, I have one or two observations to make.

First of all, you used Ed McCabe to support your argument on the utter senselessness of the Cannes Advertising Festival and other equally frivolous events.

You then go on to relegate to a parenthetical aside the fact that McCabe is one of the most awarded copywriters in the world.

Let me be so bold as to suggest that had Ed McCabe not won the awards that he won, two important ripples would not have washed onto the shores of international advertising.

(i) Most of us would never have heard of him.

(ii) He would not have been able to inspire countless copywriters around the globe with his talent.

Fact is, had his work not appeared in international award show annuals, he would have been lost to us as one of those who have set international creative standards.

I’m sure the same could be said for Bob Levenson, David Abbott, Tom McElligott, Lee Clow and Weiden and Kennedy (just to name a few); all of whom are great supporters of the events you decry.

Oh, and by the way, given the spectacular sales results that these luminaries have helped achieve through their work, I would have thought that there would be ample evidence (even to a young creative of your stature) that great advertising works on all levels.

You then go on to attack people who defend Cannes for ‘abrogating one of their primary responsibilities as creative directors.’

Recently, Leo Burnett International published a study based on extensive research which suggests judges of Cannes and Clio are better at predicting successful campaigns than are most marketers.

The survey states that 75% of the winners of these events achieve outstanding sales results. On the other hand, of the campaigns approved by marketing managers, one-third help gain share, one-third remains static, and one-third lose share.

The Advertising and Design Club of Canada has scheduled a presentation of the Leo Burnett findings in the coming months. We’ll be sure to include you on our mailing list.

However, let me continue. Your next assault is on the Academy Awards and its winners, declaring that Apocalypse Now is a more enduring film than Kramer vs. Kramer (agreed) and [directors Martin] Scorsese and [Steven] Spielberg were never recognized by the illustrious academy.

But, David, doesn’t it remain fact that their films were entered in the show?

Doesn’t it also remain fact that both are still extremely disappointed at being overlooked? Who could forget [director] Spike Lee’s reaction when his films were bypassed for awards at the Cannes Film Festival:

Why on earth do directors of this calibre consent to their films being entered in award shows if international standards are as worthless as you suggest?

Could it be the same reason that you and I enter award shows? (You do still enter award shows, don’t you David?)

Furthermore, to suggest that international standards are determined by a single picture that wins the Academy Award for Best Film or the Grand Prix winner at Cannes is as fatuous as your entire argument.

It is the collective sum of all of the nominees and winners in all categories that determine international standards in a given year – is it not?

But if you were still to insist on the one-film-says-it-all theory, how about The Unforgiven (Oscar), Barton Fink (Cannes), Wild at Heart (Cannes), One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Oscar) and the numerous other outstanding winners? Or doesn’t it suit your purpose to emphasize the postive?

Fact is, any forum which gathers the world’s best work and puts it on display is worthwhile. I don’t care what profession you’re in.

How each profession chooses to reward its achievers obviously differs. But rewarded they are. In every field of endeavor, there are star performers for whom Nobel prizes and Pulitzer prizes and (dare I say it?) Lions are set aside.

Yes, I know it’s not brain surgery, but it’s our livelihood. And unless we continually measure ourselves against the world’s best and learn from them, we will slowly disappear in ever-diminishing circles up our own rectums.

(Or is it recti?)

Boris Damast

President

Advertising and Design Club of Canada

Toronto

More on awards

I’ve been following, with some interest, the controversy surrounding Brian Harrod’s comments on the poor showing of Canadian advertisers at Cannes this year and I couldn’t resist putting in my two cents worth.

First and foremost, the whole notion of judging advertising’s worth by the number of awards it wins seems to me, in this day and age, somewhat anachronistic.

Clients, at least those I’ve talked to lately, seem to be much more interested in whether advertising produces tangible results as opposed to what advertising judges in other agencies, or, even more absurdly, other countries, think about it.

Those who judge these awards are actually told very little about the marketing conditions in which the advertising was created, so I would argue that they are making their judgments on a superficial basis.

And, certainly, with the exception of internal performance awards, such as those given out by people like Procter & Gamble, very little of this advertising is judged by how it actually performed in the marketplace.

Advertising awards are a wonderful institution. They make the creative people that win them feel good. They attract attention to agencies that are doing ‘creative’ work.

They are generally pretty good schmooze fests, where agency people can get together to find out what’s going on in town.

But let’s be realistic here. At the end of the day, most advertising awards are little more than public relations tools, albeit, very good ones, created by and for the advertising industry.

To say they reward ‘creativity,’ which is the lofty goal which most awards shows tout, is totally contingent on the notion we have of what’s creative.

To me, an ad is only creative if it works as an investment for the client – if it changes opinion or sells lots of product or informs brilliantly. Now, if this advertising achieves its purpose with wit or humor or dynamism or subtlety, great. It’s the icing on the cake.

Unfortunately, we tend to reward the icing and not the cake.

And that’s sad because it shortchanges the real value of what we as advertisers are supposed to be offering here, and that’s our ability to sell product.

We don’t go into a credentials pitch without our best case histories, which include a tangible measurement of our work’s success in the marketplace, because we know that’s a very important part of how our clients judge us.

But yet we send advertising off to places like Venice and New York and Cannes to have it judged by a superficial set of rules.

I would argue that if we win there, it’s nothing more than the purest form of luck.

Jim Murray

Onwords & Upwards

Toronto