With more than 39 recognised award shows (as of the end of 2013) in the advertising industry, some argue that they might be losing merit. Awards have had both critics and advocates since their inception, and the Mena region is no different in having witnessed its share of controversy on the topic.
Most award entries, which can cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars, include a written case and a video that illustrates the campaign strategy. In 2012, the fee per entry was approximately $275 for the Effies, $305 for the Dubai Lynx, $320 for the Mena Cristals and $400 for the Cannes Lions. The latter is considered the largest gathering of worldwide advertising professionals, designers, digital innovators and marketers. Every year in June, approximately 12,000 registered delegates from 90 countries visit the festival in Southern France.
With the MENA Cristal Festival around the corner and the Lynx just approaching, the debate was timely at the first session of the International Advertising Association (IAA) in 2014, held in Dubai Media City. The panel of debaters included Carla Hassan, CEO at PepsiCo MEA; Hubert Boulos, CEO Middle East at DDB and Mounir Harfouche, CEO at Lowe MENA.
Harfouche, in particular, is outspoken about the absence of regional presence on the Dubai Lynx jury. He says: “Advertising is the only industry where creativity is used to deliver a very business-driven objective. That’s where it becomes a currency and the best investment a brand can make. Creativity needs a context for its value to be measured, otherwise it becomes pure artistic expression, which makes it totally subjective. Clients and agencies need to be aligned on the definition of creativity and that’s how we can improve the outcome of the work. Our industry needs its chance to be respected and recognised. Our people need to be part of the experience, including taking part in judging regional awards.”
Boulos also echoed Harfouche’s sentiment: “The absence of Arab jurors at the Dubai Lynx is an absurdity; I feel it is actually insulting to all of us. I can’t imagine something like this happening in France, for example.”
Nicola Gregson, managing director of Ketchum Raad Middle East and chairwoman of Middle East PR Association (MEPRA), says: “[I believe] the value of winning can be huge – from any point of view; most people are passionate about receiving awards, as long as it is on a level playing field. The word that underpinned most of the comments and discussions during the debate was ‘integrity’ – something that every client, agency and judge must operate with. [Only then can we] experience the true value of winning awards.”
When it comes to determining what makes a campaign creative and worthy of awards, the answer can be rather relative. More importantly, should advertisers aim for metal or should the work focus on carrying its objectives?
“I believe in shooting straight. Hence, I’ll give you an unshakeable fact: There is a robust body of evidence of correlation between work that wins (creative) awards and work that builds business,” Lance de Masi, president at IAA UAE Chapter – the largest IAA chapter in the world – and moderator of the Dubai event, tells AMEinfo.com. “I’m a believer in awards. They recognise and encourage creativity. And, as referenced previously, creativity builds business.”
When asked about what a judging panel should consist of, de Masi says: “The ‘perfect’ judging panel is a diverse group of communications professionals, many of which have themselves won awards. I call for diversity in nationality, native language and, of course, professional extraction.”