Why do we bother?

Don't you just hate self-serving hype in an editorial? Gosh, we do. There's simply no room, in a space dedicated to serious discussion of industry issues, for a publication like ours to...oh, screw it. The next issue of Strategy will feature...

Don’t you just hate self-serving hype in an editorial? Gosh, we do. There’s simply no room, in a space dedicated to serious discussion of industry issues, for a publication like ours to…oh, screw it. The next issue of Strategy will feature our 10th annual Agency of the Year report, and we really believe – scout’s honour – that this year’s will be the finest we’ve done to date.

This business of picking a top advertising agency for Canada has become pretty popular of late. And it’s no longer just the domain of trade publications like Strategy. No, sir! Anyone can do it! Even daily newspapers!

Why, just the other day, we discovered that a national paper headquartered somewhere in the uncharted wilds of Don Mills, Ont. had inaugurated its own Agency of the Year competition. And as we pored over the detailed two-sentence description of their rigorous selection process, one thought occurred: Boy, are we dumb.

When we started our competition a decade ago, we had this notion that the people who produce advertising for a living are probably the ones best qualified to select the country’s best agency. God knows what we were thinking. Do you have any idea just how laborious and time-consuming it is to get industry people involved in judging an industry contest?

So you can imagine our chagrin when we found out that this other competition skipped the hassles inherent in our process, one that begins in August (really). Brilliant.

Herewith, for comparison, an abridged version of the ridiculous song-and-dance Strategy goes through every year.

Step 1: Choose a shortlist, through extensive polling of advertising professionals. Really, we could save a lot of effort if we cut out this part altogether, and just made the picks ourselves.

Step 2: Invite the shortlisted agencies to prepare submissions, consisting of five campaigns for five different clients. OK, this part we don’t mind – mainly because other people do all the work, leaving us time for…

Step 3: Choose the judges. This is a big fat migraine headache. There are way too many rules. We need to include agency people and clients, to make certain that submissions are being evaluated from both the creative and the strategic standpoints. We need judges from across Canada and the U.S., to ensure that we get the broadest possible range of perspectives. And we need people who have themselves been involved in producing outstanding advertising, because – hey, call us crazy! – we think the credibility of the results depends on having judges who can bring a real depth of knowledge and experience to bear when assessing the work.

Step 4: Send submissions to the judges. This is linked closely to…

Step 5: Worry a lot. In a little more than two weeks, four sets of submissions must travel to a dozen-plus judges across North America. With that kind of setup, there are all kinds of exciting ways in which things can go wrong. So yeah, there’s massive worry, along with its wacky sidekicks nausea, sleeplessness and premature hair loss.

Step 6: Get results.

Step 7: Publish results. Which brings us pretty much up to date.

So why do we go through all this crap? One explanation is that we’re deeply troubled people and should immediately pursue a program of psychological counseling, in combination with drug therapy or possibly some type of yoga. But we’d like to think there’s more to it. Strategy, after all, is produced for the marketing community – and we want that community to feel a sense of ownership in the publication. So when Strategy hands out an honour like the Agency of the Year, it’s crucial that the community be involved in making the selection. Then again, maybe we’ve got it all wrong. Why don’t you drop us a line, and tell us what you think of our competition? Or better still, why not hop on the bandwagon and start your own Agency of the Year competition? Anyone can do it! It’s easy! And fun!

David Todd