Why you should care about awards

As Leo Burnett's Judy John explains, whether you're an account person, a creative or a client, those lions, pencils and trophies matter.

There’s a reason why there are awards for everything: the Olympics, the Oscars, the Super Bowl, Iron Chef, it’s the spirit of competition that pushes us to be better. The best of the best set the bar and everyone clamours to jump over it.

Yes, it’s just advertising, but we should want better too: more innovative, more surprising, more breakthrough. With the average person seeing around 3,000 messages a day, you want your work to be noticed, remembered and to mean something. You want your ad to be one of the best.

Award shows are a pure measure of creativity: it’s all about the work.  If you can get noticed amongst the 10,000 ads entered into an international show, selected by seasoned CDs who have been exposed to every great idea, chances are, your work is breaking through in the market.

Personally, I think everyone in the business should care about awards. Ego aside, I’ll make my economic case for why you should care.  

Why creatives should care about awards: Well, this is an obvious one. Creatives have the shortest careers of all ad people. The ones who win awards consistently are the ones that tend to be able to stay around a little longer. In advertising, where there is no job security, having a book filled with award-winning work is your job security. Awards mean more job offers.

Why account people, planners and producers should care about awards:
You should have a book filled with award-winning work as well. Everyone who works in a creative business should have a book. It means you care about what you make. It demonstrates your ability to add to the work and make it better. That’s your job security.

Why agencies should care about awards:
You want to have and retain the best people. That’s how you get to the best work. So you want the reputation of winning awards. It says good things about the work, the people and your clients. People will want to work at your agency and the smart clients will want to work with your agency. 

Why clients should care about awards:
You want the best people working on your business. Period. They come up with better ideas. And the better ideas are the ones that break through. You want them thinking about your business all the time, not just when they’re at work. You want their “shower time.” You want them, after they’ve come up with a good idea, to go to the extra mile to try to find a better idea. Clients who are known for wanting great work usually get it. For example, Old Spice won the Grand Prix at Cannes last year. The work transformed a stodgy brand from the ’70s into the hot brand of 2010. It broke through in market and in the judging room. The talent wound up on Ellen and Oprah. The clients became rock stars in their organization.  In other words, the brand wins, the agency wins and the clients win. 

Award-winning advertising works: Between 1987 and 2002, Leo Burnett conducted four studies, exploring the correlation between award-winning advertising and marketplace success.  We identified the top 100 campaigns of a particular year – and then spoke to the agencies and advertisers behind them. The purpose was to gauge the impact that award-winning work had on goals such as increased sales, greater market share and improved awareness levels.

Across a 15-year span, our studies proved that 86% of award-winning advertising sells. Clients told us that while ordinary advertising establishes a brand’s identity, outstanding advertising is far more effective, because it creates an emotional bond. Sure, that was eight years ago, but it confirms that what breaks through and connects in shows, breaks through and connects in market.  

Why I care about award shows: We are faced with the same advertising problems every day. Most products or services are parity. So often creativity is the only thing that separates one brand from another. The power of creativity can transform brands. The power of creativity can change human behaviour. I believe in using that power to be the best of the best. 

Toronto-based Judy John is chief creative officer of Leo Burnett and will be adding CEO to her title on March 1.