Thursday, June 25, 2009

3 reasons why award shows are crucial

We’re into the last throws of award season, which means we’re almost done with the alternate pontificating, slamming, justifying and etc.


Though I love/hate award shows as much as the next guy, here are three reasons why we should love that advertising award shows exist. Starting with one you’ve heard before… but it’s amazing to me how so many gloss over this point when they pronounce award shows ‘irrelevant’.

1. Without award shows, creatives would not see all of the most innovative thinking in the world. Clients benefit in myriad ways by having their creatives exposed to ingenious solutions such as the Kit Kat postcards. Sorry, but reading the first headlines about Best Job In The World had nowhere near as much effect on the people in your creative department as reading the headlines that it just cleared up at Cannes. Isn’t that valuable? Having the ambitious creatives of the world inspired to make their client’s business famous on as little money as possible? Using modern media in exactly the way the award show haters have been touting?

2. Our industry, like other creative industries, is fueled by insecurity. The creative people working through the weekend on your business are not doing it just so they can sell your product, make you happy and keep their jobs. They’re doing it because they want to come up with something better, something that will make them famous, or at least worthy. We see colleagues getting all the attention, and it spurs us all to try harder. Clients benefit from this by having the lower paid creatives putting a disproportionate amount of sweat and imagination into your business. You get to pick and sift through the patently self-indulgent and find the blasts of brilliance that can stand out, attract, and connect.

3. Advertising award shows are the best, most direct measurement of the creative contribution that we have. Most creatives I know start life curious about the effect their ideas have on a brand’s success. But they mostly quit asking because there is no such thing as a clear line between creativity and sales. If there were, the fog would be lifted, agencies could be paid purely on their merits, many creative people would be paid way less (and some would be paid tons more). We’d be more like Hollywood directors and writers, knowing for sure that our efforts resulted in a box office of $X. (Ahem, but it probably wouldn’t stop us from having our Golden Globes, Oscars, Cannes, Sundances, Venices, etc etc.) Clients would benefit from a more complete measurement system by knowing exactly what they’re paying for.

We’d love that world. But we’re not holding our breath.

That’s all. I’d really like to hear from any award show haters. It might be your last chance ’til next year’s season.

Image by kangster

Monday, June 22, 2009

Notes to self

If you’re working the same way you were five years ago, you’re falling behind.

If you’re thinking the same way you were two years ago, you’re falling behind.

If you’re not learning something new every day, you’re falling behind.

If you’re not experimenting with every new communications platform that comes along, you’re falling behind.

If you believe it’s all about the brand, you’re falling behind.

If you believe it’s all about the work, you’re falling behind.

If you believe it’s all about the big idea, you’re falling behind.

If you’re afraid of numbers, if you start with TV, if you assume you know everything, if you assume they’re interested, you’re falling behind.

If you’re paralyzed by the realization that you’re falling behind…

Monday, June 8, 2009

Beware the brilliant first meeting

We all wish for that triumphant first presentation. The one where we nail the brief. We bring insight. We provide variety. Our opinions ring true.

We want to see those smiles across the table. And confirmation that, yes, the client really did pick the right partners, that this will be, at last, a beautiful relationship.

Then we go back to the office and tick another one off the list. We relax. We assume the client actually meant everything they said. We marvel at their intelligence and good taste, based on the fact that they agreed with us when we said ‘this is the answer’.

Well, guess what? That great first meeting is the first great opportunity to screw things up.

The client is being nice when they say they love everything. All they want is for everyone to be inspired to come back with better and better.

What they mean is ‘this is good progress, you’ve worked hard and come along way, now, next time we meet, we want you to have covered the same distance again.’

Instead, we lose our paranoia. Alas, that’s just not healthy.

Image by clagnut

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Was it the drugs, or was it the clios?

If Hunter S Thompson were still alive, and if he were an ad guy, and if he still wanted fodder for a Las Vegas-based tale of distorted reality, he could do a lot worse than what we did a couple weeks ago: hop a cheap flight down to the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel to catch the last day of the 50th Annual CLIO Awards.

You have to feel for the organizers. The CLIOs are a business like any other, and their 50th birthday deserved to be a full-throated celebration - but the GFC put paid to that. Ticket prices sure didn’t help. (Though some enterprising folks managed to get the ultimate discount.)

The final evening, which featured all of the film awards - once upon a time the glamor portion of the proceedings - was uncomfortably devoid of guests.

It was like… hmmm… Twisted Sister booking an arena for their farewell gig, only to play to a crowd of less than a hundred.

What we did have was plenty of good old, cornball Mad Ave nostalgia. The CLIOs loves advertising, all of it, and as such is in its own way a much more complete reflection of all the flavors of ‘good’ that our industry creates. Witness the gyrating figures just beyond the entry to the show - not just showgirls, but a bevvy of life-sized ad critters. The Michelin Man. The Kool Aid Jug. And the multiple, multiple films about “The History Of The CLIOs”. And, most bizarrely, a Goldfinger-esque CLIO, enlivening one more retrospective with an interpretive aerial dance.

Wait, did I say ‘most bizarrely’? Actually, that CLIO went to the UNLV marching band and Charlie Tuna, performing another (!) paean to CLIOs past.

No, check that - the Grand Weird CLIO went to giving Barry Manilow an honorary CLIO. Not that he’s not deserving of such a recognition. The man wrote many of those annoying, cloying, outrageously effective jingles of the 70’s. It was that the room-packing, head-lining superstar performed a medley of his biggest ad hits (ie “Like a good neighbor… coz the Band Aid’s stuck on me…”) to such an empty room. With so many flashing lights and raking lasers and 120 decibel hoopla.

On two serious notes:

Let it be said that the work recognized was awesome. Say what you like about the CLIOs. Their place in the award show calendar, and their global reach, always gives them an authoritative shot at pronouncing what was great in the year gone past. Chairman of the jury, Mark Tutssel, did not disappoint. Nor did he give a grand CLIO. Stingy, standard-raising bugger that he is.

Second, the films that won were of such incredibly high executional standard. Meticulous. Fanatical. And, it seemed, most often entered by a production company rather than an agency. Which led me to wonder if that’s the future of award shows in a shrunken margin era - promotional opportunities for production companies. Who else could afford the labors of love on display? Who else has more to gain from flaunting those wares in front of an audience of creatives?

Yes, it was a moment in the history of advertising. The 50th CLIOs. The year no one showed up. The year we looked back on fatter times. The year we applauded brilliance, while trying our best, just for one evening, to ignore that growing sense of irrelevance.

Image by CLIO Awards

Monday, June 1, 2009

They made enough boats

Early last year, we had the fleeting good fortune to be working with America’s biggest boating company - just in time to see the whole thing go kebang.

Here’s what happened to the boating industry: If a boat owner couldn’t cough up hundreds of dollars for gas to go out for a couple hours (remember the price of gas last summer?), the worse news was, they couldn’t get rid of the damn dinosaur, either. Nor could they trade up or down.

Because no dealer in the country was taking trade-ins.

It turns out boats have a surprising longevity. Not much can go wrong with them that can’t be switched out. And boat companies had never designed fashion statements into their product, not ones obvious to the passerby, anyway, and so there is no stigma in rolling up to a marina in a thirty year old yacht.

So pretty much all the boats that ever needed to be built have been built already.

The whole industry got gridlocked. Factories closed down, entire companies, too - brands that have been around for decades.

Now, on the eve of GM’s bankruptcy filing, some are wondering if the same thing is happening in the auto industry.

In our long, long stay at the all-you-can-eat buffet, what else do we have enough of?

Image by Pinot & Dita