NYF's AME Awards has partnered with Little Black Book (LBB) to sponsor their Awards & Events channel. This channel on LBB is a place for general news about award wins and any events being held, but it's also a place to discuss the trends impacting and changing award shows.
As part of this partnership with AME, LBB will be interviewing some of the advertising industry's brightest minds and most revered leaders on the meaning of effectiveness in 2021.
LBB’s Addison Capper speaks to Sir John Hegarty, the founder of BBH and co-founder of The Garage Soho about the future of ad industry awards, the meaning of effectiveness in 2021, and why funny ads don’t win big anymore.
LBB> An IPA report suggested that award-winning work is becoming less effective. Why do you think that is?
John> Well, I think the IPA report concluded that less awarded work was being effective due to the kind of work that's being entered into awards. If you look at the work, a lot of it is framed around important issues but for very marginal organisations, who don't spend the money that you need to spend to make advertising work. Therefore, they're having no impact. I think the fact that brands are responding to things like Black Lives Matter and other social issues that are around in the world today is good, but on the other hand, I buy my marmalade because it's made from organic oranges, it's made in a way which is not harmful to the environment, and I'm not really into whether they support a social issue or not. I think it's lovely if they do and if it's their belief that they should do so then I congratulate them and say well done, but that is not actually why I'm buying it. We've gone into this weird world where to win awards, juries are kind of encouraging this work because they keep giving awards to this kind of work, so therefore more creative people produce it, and they give it more awards. Instead of: “here's a great ad for a soap powder”.
LBB> You’ve been quite vocal on scam ads in the past but a lot of things that are entered into award shows these days aren’t necessarily a scam but may have run just once on one billboard or on an app for one day. What are your thoughts on that?
John> It is very difficult. I think award schemes will have to start isolating those pieces of work and create a category for them so they can be noted and judged, which I think is all good. But they're not really moving the business of advertising forward, and that's the problem that we have. We enter our work into award schemes because we want to show how creativity affects effectiveness and how it creates success. That's the reason for doing it. If award schemes are somehow navigating this new world they're in, showing work that had a genuine impact on the marketplace, then I think they're failing.
It's interesting that at Cannes, when you look at their effectiveness award you're seeing so few of these issue based schemes winning because they can't prove anything. It's a shame for our industry.
D&AD came into being because it wanted to prove that great creative work actually worked in creating effectiveness. That's one of their great causes and they were ultimately proven right, but the creative world has withdrawn almost from representing true commercial issues, as in: “I'm selling a product here, these are the values that surround this product, and this is why you should buy it”. We've almost withdrawn from that and I think that's a great shame.
Somebody asked me if I'd seen any advertising recently that I liked, and I talked about the milk drink - or the oat drink - called Oatly. I think it's terrific, I really think it's great. They've got a product that's not made from dairy but made from oats, so it's an issue slightly, but they advertise it in a very, very overtly commercial way, but a very positive commercial way. And they've captured my imagination and attention. Lo and behold, they're now possibly getting an IPO in America for some ridiculous sum of money. You’d think that's all we want more of, but we're not getting it. Look at the press, there's nobody talking about a great ad for an orange juice, and I'm just getting tired of it. The short answer is that I think the IPA report was right.
LBB> I was actually going to ask you why you thought not many funny ads win awards these days, and I feel like that point is a good segue into that.
John> I think that today we have creative people who don't know how to write great funny ads. They don't know how to do that. I look at some of the work that gets awarded, and I think, yeah that's not bad, but oh, god, it's nowhere near as good as something that was done 25 or 30 years ago, something that was really funny, really effective and got people talking. We also have a lack of understanding of our history. We're unique as a creative industry that has very little regard for what's gone before. If you talk to a fashion designer and you say ‘Coco Chanel’, they would instantly understand who you were talking about and her impact on the fashion industry. Or if I was talking to an architect, they'd understand who Frank Lloyd Wright was. In our industry, you can literally say to a young creative today, ‘John Webster’, and they wouldn't know who you're talking about. It's a great shame because I think they're losing the value of this experience that these people put into their work and the creativity they put into it.
LBB> Why do you think that is?
John> Because I think that over the last 25 years, they've been told that great writing doesn't matter; if you want to win an award, you can win an award by creating some stunt; creating a long-term viable campaign isn't really something clients look to anymore, so they don't bother