Forum: Why awards and college football matter

Do marketing awards matter? We all like to get them. Just being nominated is pretty good. But do they matter?

Do marketing awards matter? We all like to get them. Just being nominated is pretty good. But do they matter?

Not everybody thinks they do. Some point to ads that will never win an award but are effective in the marketplace as proof that awards are meaningless. The point can also be made that some award-winning creative fails to sell a single unit. It’s a fact that the work that receives high praise from the marketing community is sometimes ignored by people who buy our products.

But does that invalidate marketing awards?

First things first: the highest award marketing can win is increased market share. Winning in the market is the ultimate reflection of the quality of the work we do. Consumers vote on our marketing every day.

But the simple truth that there can be a disconnect between the consumer response and the industry appreciation of an ad does not nullify the value of awards.

The reality is that we all like awards. They are an immediate recognition of the value of our work from our peers.

Dove and Unilever have won many awards over the years. Marketer of the Year, Brand of the Year, Media Innovation and two Grand Prix awards at Cannes in recent memory. It doesn’t get any better than that.

The awards matter to us. We knew the ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ worked. The connection with our consumers is vital, real and measurable. But the external validation by our peers made us feel like giants. And awards are fun. Let’s face it, rarely are champagne corks popped over the latest Nielsen data.

Universities sometimes bemoan the attention paid to collegiate sports, but let’s face it; it’s hard to rally around the library. Marketing awards, like college football, give us something to cheer for.

The awards put a swagger in our step and gave us the confidence to do more and take greater risks in our work. Success does breed success and industry awards are an important ingredient in building and maintaining a winning team. People like to work on brands for a company that has a proven record of doing the best work.

So, if you want to build morale without doing a dumb team-building exercise, and if you want a reason to celebrate with a big night out with your team, win awards. If you want to inspire your team to create innovative marketing, win awards. If you are wondering how you can get top talent to send their resumes to you, win awards.

And winning awards finally proved to my Aunt Mary that I hadn’t wasted six years in university, and that I knew what I was doing and I wasn’t the janitor at Unilever. So for me, for Aunt Mary and for Unilever, awards do matter.

Marketers make the art of reaching people a profession. Understanding people and connecting with them is not an easy or simple task. And making that connection in a profound and enduring way, truly mastering the art, is a worthy endeavour.

So if marketing awards move the yardsticks and have us all reaching for a better understanding of the wants, needs and aspirations of our customers, bring them on.

When I began my career I regularly reviewed reels of award-winning ads from Volkswagen, Apple (before the ‘i’ anything) and Dove’s ‘Litmus’ campaign – all the best as determined by industry experts. Those reels had a lot to do with training my eye and honing my instinct for what was great. The best work of my predecessors is the foundation I built my career on.

At Dove we try to combine ground-breaking inspirational creative that earns the attention of the industry with the less-famous marketing that informs, instead of inspires, our consumers. In isolation either of these approaches can be effective but combined they have the power to catapult a business.

So the answer is yes, awards and award-winning campaigns matter. But they only matter if they inspire the best efforts of marketers. Like a rising tide that lifts all boats, truly creative work helps to inform and improve the quality of all marketing.

Congratulations to this year’s award winners and to all of those whose work merited consideration. Your efforts help all of us and make us proud of the profession we have chosen.

Sharon MacLeod is the marketing director for Dove and skin care at Unilever Canada. In addition to appreciating the impact of awards (and impressing Aunt Mary), she’s passionate about consumers and motivating her teams – with her greatest pride being Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty.’