Why Advertising and Marketing Awards Are Stupid Vanity Metrics

By Steve Randazzo

I can still remember what it felt like to lose a sporting event as a kid.

I was green with envy as I watched the other team walk away with trophies when all my team got was a pat on the back, a “better luck next time,” and some orange slices.

But even as a seven-year-old, I understood I actually had to win in order to be rewarded.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case anymore—especially in the marketing and advertising world.

Marketing Awards for Sale!

Today, agencies are swimming in plaques, trophies, honorable mentions, and nominations.

Everyone is competing for increasingly niche awards such as “Best PR Campaign That Use Social Media” and “Best Video Advertisement of a Dog Wearing a Hat.”

It seems like instead of rewarding outstanding strategic decision-making, we’re handing out ego boosts in exchange for loads of cash.

To win one of these marketing awards, brands must fork over a hefty submission fee and craft a case study that highlights the brilliance of their campaigns.

With some simple math, it’s easy to conclude why more and more awards organizations are popping up: It’s incredibly lucrative to have hundreds of agencies vying for hundreds of marketing awards, and as a bonus, the applicant-created case study makes it easy for the organizations to crown their victors.

These days, campaigns don’t win because they’ve achieved objective sales metrics; they’re judged on how fun, impressive, or edgy they are.

In other words, marketing awards are hardly representative of a successful campaign. They are merely a popularity contest in which the coolest brands with the biggest budgets win over the judges.

The Hard Reality of Moving Past Soft Objectives

Marketing awards are great for egos, but they don’t offer much for brands that are looking to stick around for the long haul.

My company has won its fair share of marketing awards, but we realize that great feedback from happy clients is much more valuable than hundreds of “best of” awards.

It’s time for more brands and agencies to double down on increasing sales and creating rock-solid foundations built by high-quality work.

If you’re over awards like I am, here are two mindset shifts you should make:

  • Drop the “coolness” obsession. If marketing is designed to generate sales, why are creatives primarily being rewarded for winning awards and not for driving purchase behavior? It’s easy to lean on marketing awards as validation, but smart agencies understand that sales are the true indicator of a good campaign. It can be tempting to point to shiny awards, but your brand deserves better. Demonstrate your outstanding creativity by letting the numbers do the bragging.
  • Institute practical creativity. Ultimately, brands and agencies should care less about showing off and more about selling units. There are some companies—Red Bull and GoPro, for example—that can successfully build their brands around a cool lifestyle. It works pretty well for them, but the majority of brands need to focus on practical creativity that showcases their products and drives purchases. It’s far more challenging to build campaigns that drive action through clever and insightful advertisements than it is to strictly entertain. Don’t sell yourself short; tackle the real work of gaining more customers or selling more to your current ones.

Don’t get me wrong—winning awards certainly isn’t a bad thing.

But it’s definitely not the most important goal to pursue.

Instead of collecting hunks of metal and Lucite that end up collecting dust on your desk, I challenge you to spend less time looking for a self-esteem boost and more time creating real value for your brand and customers.

image credit: shutterstock

Steve Randazzo

Steve Randazzo is the founder and president of Pro Motion Inc., an experiential marketing agency located in Missouri. With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Steve has longstanding relationships with big-name clients, including Dr Pepper Snapple Group, The Walt Disney Company, Hewlett-Packard, Duck Brand, Fiskars, Citgo, the NBA, and Tractor Supply Co.

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