A debate is raging in the direct marketing, promo and media agencies around the world about how so many of the awards in their categories have gone to mainline agencies? The Grand Prix in all three categories were won by mainline agencies. JWT Mumbai winning in direct, BBDO New York winning the promotion grand prix and Sweden’s Forsman & Bodenfors taking home the top media prize with their MMS campaign for AMF Pensions.
A look at the gold winners in direct and things don’t change too much. Couple of golds for Lowe Bangkok and one each for JWT’s London and Costa Rican offices. The only “non mainline” agencies to have won golds are new-age integrated agencies, BMF Sydney, MortierBrigade from Brussels and The Communications Agency from London. Same is the case in promo and media. No “traditional” media agency won a gold in media. The winners in promotions too were no different.
The only two categories where specialists were able to hold forth were design and cyber. Even in design six of the 11 gold winners were mainline agencies.
Somehow the story of specialist agencies losing out is not restricted to Cannes alone. Faris Yakob, writing in Campaign UK laments the inability of true media agencies to win media awards at Clio where he was on the jury.
Faris has a point. And he feels the problem is not with the specialist agencies as much as it is with award shows and the entry process. He thinks that the entry is almost as important as the idea itself. “Since most of the campaigns are from other countries, as a judge you may have never encountered the work, you have no idea how it resonated locally, whether people loved it and talked about, or simply ignored it.”
The other thing, he feels that works against specialist agencies is that the entry is all you have to go on – a short form video advert for an agency. And traditional advertising agencies have quite a lot of experience making short form video adverts, whereas media agencies don’t.
Writing for Adweek Janet Evans Barker, one of the judges on the Cannes Direct Jury echoes what many people in specialist agencies think. “The reality is that some direct marketers and even some sales promo folks feel that Cannes is the bastion of general agencies. Some commented that the Direct Lions aren’t really about direct marketing at all, but about cool creative ideas masquerading as direct marketing in an attempt to win an award.” While she doesn’t fully agree with this view, she believes that while there is a hell of a lot of innovative direct work being done by (DM) agencies —that truly IS direct— it simply isn’t being submitted. Maybe there is a some truth in there. We searched for “Cannes” in Direct Magazine and there were some old bits but nothing about the 2008 festival and winners. DMA only does a little better.
So here is what we think. Specialists agencies have to think differently when it comes to winning at Cannes and Clio Awards. Explaining entries using a good video is critical if we have to top contenders in broad based award shows. Sure we can be happy with our Echos and Caples. But just as traditional agencies are crossing borders and walking away with accolades that are reserved for direct marketing, DM agencies need to learn the tricks of packaging their truly brilliant ideas as well as some of the mainline agencies do.