On award-winning awards, and award-organising companies awarding award-winning companies.

I have been in award-winning teams before, and having now been behind the scenes in another team that is, currently, in the shortlist for more European awards (these) is naturally a pleasure. It tickles one’s ego, of course, so on one hand I subjectively appreciate it; on the other, I want to be as unbiased and objective as a person can be. Hence, I want to publish these thoughts before knowing whether the team will actually win or not. Because if they do win, I’ll of course be happy and proud of them 😊

Thought number 1: marketers rubbing their own backs

So first of all, because this might not be clear to everybody: applications to awards cost money. Not all, admittedly: those that I know, therefore considering the Digital Marketing industry only – although I’m sure it’s the same across the board. So if your campaign is better than mine, but for whatever reason you do not submit it, (crucially including you want to, but have no money to apply), I will be awarded and you won’t. So if I am a big company, or a cheeky one, I’ll simply apply to hundreds of awards a year, and will end up winning a couple for mere statistical reasons. I am already a large, rich agency, and winning awards will make me larger and richer, and…you see, an upward spiral that looks very much pumped by who’s got more money to begin with: capitalism 101.

On top of that, there are A LOT of awards: each call themselves prestigious, and each are pushed by those who win it (the award that I won is the most prestigious!). So how prestigious is an award, really? I’ve had instances (won’t name names) in which you could at the same time run for the award, and sponsor it: how is this OK? Oh an how about those that are organised by companies that are somehow siblings to other companies that can take part to the race?

And we do like to comment how good we are, how our team is the best, how we love our clients. “What’s my Unique selling proposition (USP)? I’m not only an agency for my client, I’m more of a consultant! Dare I say it: a friend!”. Isn’t this the SP (not very U, at this point) of a thousand Digital Agencies out there?

Self promotion is important indeed: nevertheless I often find it extenuating, frustrating, is all. Especially when I know is false: a company I worked for in the past, a toxic environment where I was miserable and harrassed and all that, is co-ho-honstantly posting on Social Media about how good they are. It’s was hell, and the thing is, they most definitely knew. What you’ve got to do is, you always have to be true.

Thought number 2: an award is an effect

This is more boring, more personal, probably more relevant to me than the first one. It’s got to do with causality.

Generally speaking, I like to think about causes, not effects: if you modify the cause, it’ll trickle down to the effect too (teach a person how to fish, rather than giving them a fish). So if I play my best football, but still lose, I can still be happy, since victory was an effect.

Now, there’s several things that can intervene in obtaining a certain effect: on some one can work, improve, actively make better, and on others one cannot. You can train harder, but you cannot control your shoelaces breaking off minutes before the game. The stoic will say that one should only be concerned with those things that one can control. You just train as hard as you can, and vet the status of your equipment as best you can, and that’s it; if it breaks, it breaks.

An award is an effect, not a cause. The cause that you can control towards winning an award is, doing a high-quality job. And since quality is a relative concept, let’s simplify the idea: you just do your best, at all times. Is that enough to win an award? No, it’s not: there’s the whole thing I described in point 1, there’s chaos (or call it luck), there’s your competitor, a lot of stuff outside of your control. A judge is more likely to be benevolent with entries that they read after lunch, than before lunch (as they’ll be in a better mood): if that’s the level of variability one has to deal with, one cannot possibly think they can assess everything.

Hence, is it really how many awards your team brings home, that you should evaluate them for, or is it the effort that you witness day in, day out?