As we head into mid – November, the 2007 awards season is in full swing. Last month was the DMAs. Last week saw the CASSIES and Media Innovation awards. This week it's the "black tie" Canadian Marketing Awards.
If you think awards shows are a self-congratulatory love in, designed for the winners to slap themselves on the back and hug their creative team, you're missing the bigger picture. Yes, the shows are no doubt a party - part celebration and part reflection. However the best award shows fill an important role in our industry – to learn from best and brightest in marketing about what campaigns succeeded in breaking through the clutter and connecting with Canadians. And, as much as we can, understand why they succeeded so well.
It's a great feeling for marketing and advertising teams to be singled out for producing programs that achieved results. Being client side, I tend to measure campaign results first by increases in revenues or share points. Creatives, on the other hand, first tend to look at production values, emotional impact or how memorable their message was with its audience.
Naturally, there's tension that's created by looking at the same challenge from different perspectives. That's why in my opinion, a show needs to recognize both viewpoints in order to identify outstanding work.
Despite all the great work that has been, or about to be recognized this year, there's one category that consistently impresses by delivering focused and clear messaging that rarely fails to impress. I'm talking PSAs. If you asked me to name just three PSA campaigns that were standouts for me, I could easily remember six.
The Sick Kids “Believe” campaign featured children and babies fighting off the evils of cancer and disease, but only with our help (of course). Produced by JWT, it succeeded in generating $79 million in fiscal 2007.
The Stupid.ca TV spots and amazing website by Youthography, are in my opinion excellent examples of work that speaks directly to young people, not down to them. The list continues - Flick Off, United Way, Canadian Blood Services, work by DDB Canada, and my newest favourite PSA campaign by Participaction.
Even though in most cases, we’re being asked to open our wallets, we can’t help but listen intently and be moved by what is being said. Why is this work so powerful, so memorable? I have my theories....
1. Is it that the PSA message, almost always emotional and empathetic, taps into our humanity far more profoundly than the benefits of XYZ detergent ever could?
2. Is it that the work is done pro bono by an agency, so clients are more hands off, less meddlesome in the creative and copy writing process, so the essence of the idea isn't harmed?
3. Are PSA marketing briefs better written? Less muddy and more clear and concise, with objectives and approaches clearly laid out?
It's worth thinking about why so much PSAs end up winning awards every year. It's the best for specific reasons, not simply by chance. Perhaps the reason agencies clamour to work on PSA campaigns is for a chance to flex their creative muscles with the least amount of intrusion, and show the depth and power of their abilities. Persuasion at its purest and most powerful.
At this year's CMAs, creative now accounts for more of the judges' score. The new breakdown: 40% Results, 40% Creative and 20% Production. Show producers are promising a celebration of the science and the art of marketing – Results-driven as always, passionate about great creative work like never before.
Regardless of who and what is recognized, industry award shows raise the bar for creative and marketing innovation in Canada. So if you happen to be one of the lucky recipients of an award this year, make sure you give your creative director a big hug to show that you care.