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'Tis The Season

BY Ajay Kakar

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It’s that time of the year when the media, advertising and marketing industry celebrates the spirit of creativity with award shows. In India, we have already celebrated the One Show wins, the Abby One Show and more recently Cannes Lions at the French Riviera.

As a former advertising person, and a marketer in the latter part of my career, I ask myself a few candid questions.

‘What role do such awards play in our lives?’

‘Why do we celebrate these awards?’

And more importantly, ‘Who actually celebrates these awards and wins?’

Before attempting to answer these key and candid questions, let me pull back and recall the purpose of our being, as an industry. I believe that our purpose is to make brands ‘Famous’ and thereby, to create a ‘Pull’ for our products and brands.

Towards that end, we are duty bound to create and take to market clutter breaking and distinct ideas for our brands. To own and distinguish themselves from the plethora of other brands in the market; whether they are direct competition, or just competing against our brands for the eye-balls, mind-share, heart-share, or share of wallet.

As they say – my baby is beautiful. So it’s but obvious that all of us believe that our brand, and all the contributing work towards the brand, is admiration-worthy. This is where award shows come in. The credible awards that are earned, and not bought. They play a very important role, as a mirror. Setting aside your personal emotions and possible biases, you get an opportunity to have your work compared with the rest of the industry, and gauged and recognised by a celebrated and independent jury. And it is indeed a natural high, to win recognition against your peers and best of class, at such award shows.

The advertising industry that creates such work; the ‘mother’ of creativity, is naturally super excited when the work that they give birth to, wins a metal. More so, if the work gets recognised across award platforms, and across geographies.

But what about the ‘father,’ the Marketing industry? Those who identify a need, create a brief, and approve and fund the work, by taking it to the market. After all, the advertising industry will only survive and flourish, if the brands and companies we partner, flourish.

Do we see them celebrate these award platforms and awards with the same passion and enthusiasm?

Regrettably, not. I believe.

Regrettable, because why do they not feel the same sense of ownership and unbridled joy? Why are they not at the award shows, in large numbers, to celebrate their work and wins? Wearing my Marketer’s hat, I believe that what a Marketer is looking for is outcomes, rather than outputs.

While creative awards celebrate output, awards that recognise effectiveness in the marketplace are the ones that see more support and buy-in of the client fraternity.

So at the end of the day is it horses for courses? To each his own? The advertising agencies feel more at home celebrating creativity (output), while clients prefer to celebrate effectiveness (outcome).

I end my thoughts with what’s possibly a learning for all of us. A story that many of us may have heard.

Legend has it that Maharishi Valmiki (who wrote the Ramayana), was actually a robber in his early years. One day, he stopped a sage who was passing by, and had every intention to rob him. The sage offered all his possessions, without any resistance, but requested Valmiki to first answer one question.

“Why do you rob people and earn bad karma?” the sage asked.

Valmiki said that he did this for his family, who depended on him. The sage then suggested that Valmiki ask his family if they would bear and share the consequences of being a thief, if he was ever caught.

His family’s response, reformed the thief and made him Valmiki the sage. They candidly told Valmiki that if he were to be caught, it is he who must solely bear the consequences, alone.

“We didn’t ask you to rob to do your duties towards your family. So why should we bear the consequences!”

Let me close the loop in this analogy, with a learning for our industry. So for whom are these award-show extravaganzas held? Who are the people who actually want and value the awards won?

Is it just the advertising industry, seemingly living in its ivory tower? Or is it a validation equally celebrated and valued by the client fraternity, too? To be candid, it appears to be the former. And regrettably, not the latter. And that’s the sad reality of most of the award shows and this season.

Personally, I believe that the agency-client community, the creators of brands and the owners, must create and celebrate great ideas with the courage to benchmark its work with that of others, and awards allow us to do just that. However, at the end of the day, brands are co-created at the back of the client-agency partnership. So that the client’s business grows and flourishes in the market place.

If a marketer or brand doesn’t see an award that also recognises success in the market place, what are the chances that they will value the award, and be there in person?

Awards that celebrate creative output and lead to business outcomes,will be valued and celebrated by all. Let’s talk to each other, and come to a common ground on what’s valued by both sides of the partnership. Let’s then earn the fame for ourselves at award shows that celebrate what all members of this family value, that in turn will earn fame for the clients and brands.

Any award that does that, for the entire client-agency family, is the one to celebrate! Passionately!

Borrowing from Rabindranath Tagore, I hope I speak for all of us, when I pray that “Into that heaven of awards season, my Father, let my industry awake.”

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