Viewpoint-Don’t feed machine

.I've been reading Bill Durnan on awards and agencies of the year and such with great interest.He's right, of course. There are far too many awards. And, exactly like Bosnian currency, the more of the stuff printed, the less its value.You...

.I’ve been reading Bill Durnan on awards and agencies of the year and such with great interest.

He’s right, of course. There are far too many awards. And, exactly like Bosnian currency, the more of the stuff printed, the less its value.

You can go into any agency, anywhere, no matter how disreputable its creative product, and be greeted by a wall covered with nicely framed tributes to its brilliance and innovation.

Nobody ever looks at those walls closely, which is a good thing.

My own office wall used to display with pride – I indulged my satiric bent in those days – an absolutely authentic certificate crediting me with the second-best black-and-one-color newspaper ad published that year in Florida.

True. And not only that, but I was able to flaunt, beside the certificate, a letter from the judging chairman saying that he hadn’t thought it was the second-best, he thought it was the first-best.

The trouble is, just like anything else, awards exist to make money.

Either secondary money, as in selling the potential of billboards or radio or television or magazines or newspapers; or primary money, as in getting lots of entry fees and lots of keesters in seats.

So, the only way to reduce the number of awards is to stop feeding the machine. Which means, not entering, and not going. Which means a significant cutback in the stroking of the human ego. Which ain’t about to happen, in the foreseeable future, or after that, either.

But, hell, I’m almost as idealistic as Bill Durnan. So, instead of abolishing awards, or squashing them all like a blast furnace into one indistinguishable mass, I want to reform them.

I have a judging suggestion that is long overdue. I want to borrow from Olympic diving, and a few parts of gymnastics, and create a scoring system based on degree of difficulty.

If you leap off a diving board, and make 14 twists and a flip, and enter the water cleanly, you score a lot more points than if you leap off and dive in straight. What you did is tougher; the reward is higher.

It’s the same thing in creating great advertising.

Let’s say your assignment is to present a product improvement for a 30-year-old detergent from Procter & Gamble, based on new green granules of phosphorus. Your degree of difficulty is 146.

Across town, another creative team is given Michael Jordan and Madonna under contract to introduce an Italian-designed sports car that will also fly. Their degree of difficulty is 2.

Several years ago, I found myself on a judging panel, lobbying hard against baby seals. (Sorry. Yes, I did.)

The panel wanted to give the highest possible award to a commercial with a message that clubbing baby seals is not nice.

Someone had found documentary footage of a seal-clubber in action, and put on it a super, saying, ‘Stop this stuff,’ or something. It was strong. It was effective.

But, come on now, my grandmother could have done it. And how do you compare that with some poor creative team facing 30 seconds on sinus cavities? Answer: degree of difficulty.

Degree of difficulty works in any medium. Sometimes you’re in radio, and the assignment demands a product shot. Sometimes you’re in billboards, and you ought to have a dealer listing.

Those problems can be solved, but not by hiring Whitney Houston to do the jingle. The people who solve them are true professionals. They deserve a raise, and an award.