Ramsey Naja: “And the award for best dressed gladiator goes to…”

Ramsey Naja

One of the most popular TV programmes of my childhood was a French show called L’Ecole Des Fans. The reason behind its huge draw was simple: L’Ecole Des Fans was a game show with arguably the flattest, widest podium ever: its slogan was ‘tout le monde gagne’ – everyone wins.

In this era where we are ‘democratising’ – oh, how I hate this word – everything from luxury goods all the way to nuclear warheads, I like to think that L’Ecole Des Fans was the start of the democratisation of, well, winning. Now this is something quite familiar to us in the Middle East where we’re pretty good at illusory victories. The democratisation of winning, however, goes further by turning even imaginary triumphs into bona fide successes, wrapping them in a coat of respectability and distributing laurels to everyone accordingly.

Today, the Fifa World Cup is devised to bring in cannon-fodder rather than outright winners and you don’t even have to be a champion to participate in the European Champions’ League.

Sadly, this disease has contaminated our own industry. Today it is practically impossible for an agency to leave a festival empty-handed, such is the proliferation of categories, sub-categories and special gongs. The whole awards industry has become a consolation-prizes fest, so much so that a prize should be given to traffic managers for best use of sub-categories. Indeed, many ad people are getting itchy as to whether the whole thing is actually best use of money and there is no denying that it is reaching ridiculous proportions.

However, in an industry as competitive as ours, what is more worrying is that the whole awards game has become a modern-day version of children’s programmes. There are so many winners at every festival that their group photo could be mistaken for a medium-sized protest demo. Personally, I believe we should return to more exclusive, purer, tougher competitions. Regardless of cost implications, we should do away with those silly subsets that make it all look like a kiddies’ tournament and get back to proper, category gladiatorial fights. When there is no room for ‘best dressed gladiator’, there can only be one winner.