Blogs & Comment

Awards… what are they really all about?

As the Dubai Lynx kicks off, Fouad Abdel Malak, executive creative director at Impact BBDO Dubai, takes a look at the mêlée surrounding awards

“It’s that time of year again when creatives forego any reservations of staying late and driving clients, servicing and production teams to their wits end, proposing crazy budgets and even crazier turnaround times for approvals and media. Those with fewer entries will accuse others of spending too much time and money pursuing trophies, and those with too many entries will claim that each piece is as legitimate as the next. And then there is the undying breed of so-called creative connoisseurs. They often claim that the next award show is more important than the current one, and if they don’t pick up in that one, then the next one is even better than the last, with the false hope of getting something at the end. Meanwhile, veteran members of senior management smoke cigars and reminisce about the bygone days of musical jingles and celebrity commercials, as well as their up-close-and-personal encounters with cabaret stars.

The reality is that no recession or looming threat of war will ever really deter the incredible creative drive for recognition at award shows. And why not? After all, most of us purchase our latest 46in LED TV according to whatever the What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision Awards suggest, and we use Jeremy Clarkson as an excuse to buy a sports car, even though we may never really use its full potential, considering the insane number of radars on our roads today.

How are advertising awards different? Well, for starters, very few award ads are really ever seen by the public prior to award shows. Some entries appear in some conspicuous publications, or at some odd timeframe. Other work completely ignores all brand essence and guidelines, while other entries are so ambitious they are rarely understood by the target group they are intended for. We are all guilty of one or more of these crimes. So if we already know all this, why do we still do it?

Believe it or not, in 2011, I still find myself in forums trying to explain to a suspecting crowd of so-called experts, why creativity works. Great creative work has to come from the top down. We are too easily satisfied with the status quo of brands in the region, often at the expense of pushing for better work and more integrated solutions that genuinely communicate to the new generation. Long gone are the days of presenting a few scripts and a key visual, but we still do it. And anything beyond that will require global approvals and a rethink of budget allocations. The apparatus for creative measurability or effectiveness are still primitive in our region and many forego the expense of doing such research, which leaves creative success more a matter of opinion than fact.

Creatives need to feel that there is hope for their work to compete on the world stage. Awards are a form of currency, and awarded agencies usually attract the best talent. In some cases, when agencies spend a disproportionate amount of time and resources pushing for awards glory at the expense of real client work, it can all go terribly wrong. Balance and moderation are the keys to maintaining a healthy and invigorated creative department. We are all still pursuing the dream of turning every existing client brief into a potential award entry. Until that happens – and clients and agencies realise that creativity that’s based on a genuine idea and is properly targeted and carried through the right channels – pro-active and scam will always remain a heavily contested issue.”

The Dubai Lynx begins today at the Madinat Jumeirah and runs until 30 March.