February issue: Creative ROI

You can put your calculators down now, the math is over.

You can put your calculators down now, the math is over. Leo Burnett’s Judy John and Israel Diaz (who recently announced he’ll be leaving the agency) took the top two spots in strategy‘s Creative Report Card, amassing the biggest national and international awards haul of all Canadian creative directors. Leo’s Anthony Chelvanathan and Steve Persico also topped the art and copy tallies, largely on the merits of ‘Share Our Billboard’ for second-ranked advertiser James Ready.

We added a national show to the Card this year, acknowledging the CMA Awards’ recent Cannes-esque format change honouring a broad swathe of disciplines, which may have helped non-regionals a tad. However, it’s on the international stage that Leo really cleaned up; it was the top Canadian agency on The Big Won tally (a Gunn-style report that tallies global awards shows spanning all disciplines).

The top advertiser for 2009 was P&G, largely for the advertising behind its Gain, Cheer and Febreze brands. In an interview about the work that led to victory, Gord Meyer, the marketer behind most of the creative, commented on the attitude shift within P&G towards external creative recognition, saying that there was a time in the company’s history when awards weren’t considered important, but now describes them as ‘really important.’

Beyond the team motivation, one of the oldest benefits of award-show domination – stacks of resumes – remains a big payoff. As per P&G president Tim Penner: ‘Participating in and winning external awards is one way we are trying to invite the very best talent in the industry to want to work on our business.’

Attracting business to the talent is a newer dividend. Leo Burnett president David Moore says he’s always viewed awards primarily as an HR tool versus a new business tool, however, ‘increasingly I am finding that clients are now recognizing awards as an indicator of where good talent resides. For the first time, in this past year we have seen client RFPs that are asking for award-show track record.’

Which leads to the evolving nature of the creative within our Creative Report Card. Not all that long ago, the work that took home the medals was breathtaking, funny, slick or outrageous, and relevance to the consumer relationship with the brand was not as big a priority as huge production values. Beer ads did well. But over the last decade, as ‘relevance,’ ‘connection’ and ‘engagement’ became the bywords, criteria changed, and marketers prone to snort derisively over ‘it won an award’ are now the minority.

Now juries ask ‘what was the insight?’ and ‘did it deliver?’ What’s recognized as great creative are bespoke concepts derived from unique insights, with the insight being the most crucial element to craft (read Craig Redmond’s rant on that subject on p. 44). That’s why the James Ready and Gain work by Leo B fared so well – they tapped into the relevance of UGC without losing control of the messaging, therefore managing to still deliver on the original insight.

Although the primary judging criteria remain at opposite ends of the spectrum, many ‘creative’ award shows are creeping closer to the CASSIES remit (some Cannes jury presidents gave directions to recognize work that delivered last year), no doubt contributing to the growing respect for awards on the brand side. And while the CASSIES award effectiveness, creativity is inherent in each step of the ROI journey from mining insights to Machiavellian solutions, and likely why it’s considered the most prized award for both marketing and agency execs.

To bone up on the insights behind the Canadian campaigns that won the most regional, national and global awards, turn to p. 27. Hopefully you’ll pick up a thing or two to improve your Creative Report Card marks next year, now that they count for more.

Cheers, mm
Mary Maddever, exec editor, strategy, Media in Canada and stimulant

P.s. For those who won’t be able to make it to the CASSIES on Jan. 28, we’ll have a limited supply of the digest version of the awards guide available on USB keys. If you want one, be in touch. And for everyone else, check out the full cases on the ICA site.

View the entire February 2010 issue of strategy