Why Awards Matter (Even When They Don’t)

In the external agency world, awards are everything. A creative director early in my career once told me to give the client Headline A (the better headline), even though I told him they would probably reject it. I knew that Headline B was also effective and was probably the one they’d want because it was “safer.” He shook his head and said: “Think reprints.” In other words, deliver the ad that would have the best chance of winning when reprints were submitted to the award shows.

Fast forward to years later when I’m working in-house and our group wins a Midas Award for excellence in financial advertising. When it’s mentioned to a member of senior management, he says: “Midas Award? What’s the trophy, a muffler?” Okay, I see why he couldn’t resist the joke. And he did congratulate us on winning, although I’m not sure he fully grasped why this award was something the creative team valued.

These two examples demonstrate the cultural difference between working in an environment where creative is king and one where it’s simply part of a department that’s in service to the larger objectives of the company.

But even those of us who toil in-house need awards—and maybe we need them more than external agency people. Affirmation from respected colleagues that you’ve done good work is a carrot all creative people chase. On the agency side, that’s a given. On the in-house side, we have to work a little harder for those opportunities. In the end, it’s about shared excitement and an honest reaction from a jury of our peers—whether those peers are at Cannes or the IHAF Awardsor just over the wall in the next cube.

Lisa Maregni is Senior Director, Creative Strategy at Commonwealth Financial Network where she oversees a 15-person creative team in support of the nation’s largest privately held independent broker/dealer-RIA.

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