Lotus Awards called off

A "perfect storm" forced the cancellation of this year's regional show. Is there hope for an encore?

The Lotus Awards, the big trophy show for the B.C. ad community, will not be held this year, organizers say.

It’s been called off after what the Advertising Agency Association of British Columbia’s (AAABC) president Dean Elissat calls a “perfect storm” of issues rocked plans for the 2014 show – mainly that two of the province’s largest agencies chose not to enter.

The AAABC, which oversees the event, is in the process of dissolving, says Elissat, who is also VP client engagement for Engine Digital, after its board decided the 30-plus-year-old association no longer played a relevant enough role in the community. It intends to wind up the volunteer organization in early October, and leave it to the agency community to decide if there is a need for another association, he says.

“The needs of the advertising agency members have completely changed since [the AAABC's] inception,” Elissat says. “There really hasn’t been an evolution to the role the AAABC has played in the community, and we were finding there wasn’t enough participation from its board or its members to revamp it.”

However, the AAABC had been continuing to plan for this year’s Lotus Awards while also seeking a new partner to transfer show rights ownership to. It had issued an RFP for a non-profit organization to take over and run the show, he says, and is hoping to find a partner by September.

But the final nail in the coffin for this year’s show was hammered in about three months ago, Elissat says, when two “large agencies” in Vancouver informed the AAABC they would not be submitting work for this year’s show, which would have taken place in November. Faced with lower-than-expected revenue from entry fees and assuming lower ticket sales and sponsorship opportunities, the show could not go on, he says.

“It’s the first time this has ever happened,” Elissat says. “Some years we get more work or less work, but to have a couple of agencies not participate whatsoever puts a dent in the revenue.

“We had to look at whether we could make the show break even…and we just couldn’t make the numbers work,” he adds, noting the alternative to not hosting the event this year would have been to have one of a lower quality.

“We chose the lesser of two evils to not have the show hosted at all, wait for new ownership to come in and wait for it to come back in a big way.”

Elissat would not name the agencies that decided not to take part in this year’s show. He says he’s confident the show will be back in 2015, but that will be under the stewardship of another organization.

The Lotus Awards was founded in 1989 by a group of West Coast ad agencies and had expanded in recent years to include design, interactive, social media and a student category. Vancouver agency Dare won double Best of Show at the event in November 2013, while Rethink won the most trophies on the night.