Let awards set new standards for the industry

Responding to a column earlier this week, Havas' Alex Panousis explains why she embraces her addiction to shiny things.

By Alex Panousis

RE: It’s time to come clean

I, too, have a confession to make. I am addicted to shiny things.

Creative awards inspire me. I celebrate wins for other agencies, but also for mine. Yes, I get that some of it is “not made for real life,” but I hope the potential of new and great pushes us forward.

For media specifically, the celebration of innovation is critical. “Scale” and traditional media buying bumps up against banner blindness and a mass lack of attention. Building on the back of innovation is progress. Awards should celebrate that and act as an opportunity to discuss new solutions, create benchmarks, open up the dialogue on why brave work is even more important in 2019 and help us better capitalize on the opportunities created by our evolving consumer media consumption.

I do agree that creative and media awards need to evolve and their importance needs to be in check – but celebrating great work should not go away.

To me, “shiny” is about pushing forward. Today, so much is possible and I want agencies, media and creative to continue to be makers. Learn to code, apply design thinking, ask why not, push for better ideas.

There should not be a debate on the foundations of building a business and using innovation to drive a competitive advantage. Innovation is not simple, easy or cheap, but for me, it is not an option: it is an “and” that can take your work from good to great.

In advertising, you cannot claim to be a digital and creative disruptor without playing in the arena. Yes, there are issues: awards have become less relevant, with cases written to win and ideas that barely launch beyond the agency’s own walled garden. But I also believe they are an example of an industry striving for more, which is something that can and should motivate.

I love how advertising has potential to change the world, making things that can change commercial and human behaviour, all of which have earned recognition on multiple awards stages. The Domino’s pizza emoji, Budweiser’s “Red Light,” Fearless Girl, the “Destination Pride” app and TD’s coin bank posters; these kinds of ideas make the world a little bit better, change how we think about traditional categories and help our clients’ brands stand out. They should be acknowledged.

At the end of the day, we all agree that agencies and teams should be rewarded by elevating a client’s business. Winning or entering an award show should create a culture where ideas that really matter become the minimum requirement, not the end goal.

I am all for giving up the pomp and pageantry of the creative or media award event, but not the intent. Shift the emphasis from creative to creative effectiveness. Get paid not on awards won, but on ideas that grows business. Go to Cannes to learn, to be better and study your craft. Create new standards for our industry.

Alex Panousis is president and chief media officer for Havas Media.