We’ve once won an industry award at my first agency. I remember the planner running around the office, brandishing a creative brief with a mandatory section that read: “this piece of work needs to win us an award”.
My proudest achievement to date – the Puma Dance Dictionary – won us some awards, but not before the international press talked about it. Not before I received a Puma Dance Dictionary message from a close friend I hadn’t talked to in years. If the purpose of what we do is to use brands to fuel culture and make something people will love, then there’s nothing more rewarding than having people talking about it. Unless you’re a multi-awards-winning CD, a Lion is really only destined to sit under some dust in reception or be buried under a lot of blurb in your CV.
Besides, what have awards become today? The backlash from the recent Cannes Lions was clear in pointing out that the strongest ideas had made place to what could be defined as “gimmicks”. Grey’s Grand Prix wins for Volvo and Facebook’s ice bucket challenge are good examples. And with new categories created every year, we are just devaluing what was the most respected awards show a decade ago.
It is hard to argue against Leonardo DiCaprio’s performances over the time, yet he’s never left Cannes with anything else than a hangover. The year he failed to win an – expected – award for his performance on The Wolf of Wall Street, the Oscar went to Matthew McConaughey for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club (movie fanatics will remember that McConaughey undertook an extraordinary physical transformation for that film). Perhaps Oscars aren’t rewarding the best performances anymore. Perhaps that’s why Leonardo’s physical effort in The Revenant is likely to finally win him one. And perhaps there is a strong case for awards to be overrated.
Awards give you momentum, which could in turn win you clients and talent, but never should they come before or in the way of what we do in this Industry – culturally defining moments that get people to give a damn.