Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Is winning everything ... and do awards even matter anymore?

In his latest monthly column Greg Grimmer, partner, Hurrell Moseley Dawson & Grimmer, argues why in a year full of redundancies, unemployment, missed bonuses, and tightened corporate belts - the awards season isn't an anachronism that should be quietly and quickly put out to grass ...

Here we are again, it's the business end of the year. Pitch results, financial year-ends, and the true test of any business' mettle - the awards season. As the nights draw in, and the air grows colder, the skirts get shorter and the male definition of black tie gets stretched further down The X Factor rather than the Bond route, will we all seek to judge our own peer group by the number of times they visit the stage of the Grosvenor House Hotel?

This year, more than many previously, I am hearing dissent about the relevance of these glamorous (but fatuous?) shindigs. Are they not just money making enterprises for the publishers of the magazines they purport to represent the readers of? Are they not so omnipresent that each individual award is cloaked with invisibility due the plethora of similar rewards?

In a year when there have been redundancies, unemployment, missed bonuses, and tightened corporate belts all round - surely the awards season is an anachronism that should be quietly and quickly put out to grass?

Well as someone that neither personally entered, not corporately won anything this year I would say no. Despite the obvious call for a reduction or postponement of the awards in our sector . They should and will remain a staple entry in every ambitious agency CEO, Sales Director and Junior media person's dairy, and I will now discuss some of the major reasons for this.

For a large spending client of my agency, HMDG, I recently sat in on their pitch for a new media agency. A number of the global major marketing services groups were invited to tender - each of those chose one of their most suitably equipped media agencies to take part - and each of those then prepared an excellent lengthy submission full of erudite thinking, excellent value, and all equally full of ROI busting case studies for well regarded client businesses.

After this elongated process the client's decision came down to two sets of people and a single question - what differentiates you from your competitor? The winning CEO without blinking cited the X number of awards won at a planning event the evening before, and cheekily filled in the gap for his competitor. It was a Tour de Force, confident without being arrogant, unarguable in its facts, and compelling in its strength.

Success breeds success, any budding touchline Alex Ferguson will tell you this and the truth is as relevant to our business as it is to a sporting analogy. Clients like to be in an agency that is fashionably successful, sales managers like to work for a brand that is recognised as best in its category, media planners like getting pay rises and job offers for writing award papers.

Moreover, there are other tangible benefits. I enjoy being asked to judge such events as you get to analyse first hand what your peer group think are their best examples of productivity, creativity, and all round good workmanship, and I am rarely disappointed.

My personal rule, which I try and instill into my contemporary judges is - when this award is announced on the night, is there going to be a general nodding of heads and acceptance even amongst competitors or is there going to be outcry and a feeling of 'who the hell were the judges on that category'. Quite often people are swayed by an excellent face to face presentation or pitch theatre, but more often than not thorough work across a year or longer will be rewarded.

So, awards are good for companies and peoples financial health, and arguably increase both productivity and creativity (but you won't have to go far to find those that would argue otherwise). So what about the other effect of awards, the evening out for all of those that make it to the aforementioned Grosvenor House or its smaller siblings the Park Lane, Dorchester or The Hurlingham? Of course it is only a small number of individuals that make it up on stage (unless of course you count some of the mass invasions by the agencies/ sales teams for the premier awards which seems to have become the fashion of late) but what about the rest of us? Those who attend knowing that it is not going to be your night to go home with a bauble or two.

Well the answer is of course go and enjoy it ! Have fun mingling with friends and colleagues past, present, and no doubt future. This year more than most we all deserve a night out ... and sometimes its not just about winning, or even the taking part but just attending and enjoying it - whilst obviously aspiring for next year.

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