Industry Awards – a necessary evil?

By Claire Herman, Media Operations Manager at The MediaShop.

The MediaShop is one of the most awarded media agencies in South Africa, and we are very proud of our awesome track record. This past week we received a Finalist in the Marketing Achievement Awards for our amazing client Debonairs Pizza, so well done to the team! This got me thinking though, in all the chaos that is our day-to-day lives, what value do awards add and why do we enter them?

You know how it goes, you are on deadline for a massive campaign, client is chasing, media owners are chasing, your boss is chasing… The chase list is even chasing! And now you receive a notification that the XYZ Awards are open for entry! So then top management start chasing about what awards we can enter, and your never-ending to-do list just keeps on getting longer. You will be forgiven for thinking that award entries can wait – we have client priorities, right? But I don’t think we should under-estimate the importance of entering and winning awards – the benefits are so valuable.

Firstly, it is great for our clients to see that the hard work and effort that we put into their business is paying off. Gone are the days where the Creative Agency briefs in a 3×5 B&W press ad in the Diamond Fields Advertiser (is the DFA even still around?) so that they can enter the Loeries.

Awards today have so much more substance and most of the time you need a thorough rationale proving the campaign’s return on investment and impact. So, what this is saying to our clients is that their campaigns have had a very real impact on their business deliverables, and we are doing a great job with their marketing budgets.

This then has a ripple effect onto the internal team, giving them a real sense of purpose, resulting in an uplift in team morale. Now more than ever we need to boost our motivation levels – it has been a tough couple of years, with extraordinarily high expectations and an incredibly intense work environment. Nothing lifts the spirit more than a solid sense of achievement and a feeling of success.

It is also critical to build a culture of healthy competition – I live by the motto that Good Is The Enemy Of Great, and we should constantly strive to be and do better. This continuous cycle of learning and improvement strengthens the whole ecosystem and creates a much more positive and productive space to be the best you can be.

But this sense of healthy competition is not only important within the agency, but also between agencies. We have had a very busy pitch time of late, with a pitch “season” that seems to be never-ending, but how else can potential clients gauge an agency’s level of expertise and excellence?

Yes, it is in the hard work and detail of responding to a brief, show-casing case studies, and committing to a certain standard of delivery (and at a certain price), but one of the most obvious is an agency’s award-winning track record. Competition is really tough – we can argue that agencies provide the same “stuff”, and that it is really just in the execution that we set ourselves apart, but for me it is about doing exceptional award-wining work, that delivers results.

So, before you decide if doing award entries is worth it, I can argue that it is a necessary evil… And if it is a necessary evil, how do we make the most of it and ensure that our teams take the time and effort to enter? After all, you have to be in it to win it, right?

I would say that celebrating the wins is number one – we really don’t celebrate enough these days. And celebrate the small wins too… every little bit counts. Secondly, we need to ask ourselves if we incentivise our teams enough. Again, there is only so far self-motivation can take you, especially coming out of such a rough few years. The incentives could be a bit of a bonus, some extra time off, public acknowledgement and recognition (who doesn’t want to be famous or just heard?), or even an opportunity to share your success and learnings with others and pass on your knowledge.

Lastly, we need to provide support and assistance – client deliverables will not go away while you write an award entry, so is there someone who can ease the load on your day-to-day commitments to allow you the time and space to think? But on this point though, a helpful hint to all strategists, while a campaign is flighting, write your case study, collect your supporting material, run your post campaign analyses and collect your data – it will save you an enormous amount of time and energy at award entry time.

So, yes, awards are a necessary evil, but it is useful to think of the upside of winning and imagine all the positives that come with being great.

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