Let me start by posing a question, a little thought experiment if you will.

What if all advertising award shows were shut down just for next year? How would you plan on demonstrating the quality of your work as an agency or a marketing department?

If your goal isn’t to get a heap of Gold Lions, what would it be?

Now park that for second while I explain myself.

I have nothing against Cannes, this isn’t one of those posts. In fact I think the ‘Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity’ as it’s officially now called is a very, very good thing.

The majority of people that work in the advertising industry work bloody hard and we deserve the opportunity to indulge in some self-congratulation.

I’d even go as far as saying I believe this comment from former Heineken USA CMO, Christian McMahan to be true:

“One thing people underestimate is how awards can serve as a tool to help clients defend their agency choices to other internal stakeholders. Everyone wants to be with a winner. In the absence of experience or the depth of knowledge to rationalise a choice, knowing that an agency has been consistently recognised for the quality of their work can be an important data point that some clients rely on in their decision making process”.

It is however starting to get all a bit silly. Our penchant for Lions of the Golden kind is not only distorting reality, it’s actually making us behave irrationally.

Last year it was all about the alleged block voting by the networks

This year it’s big media agencies trying to claim as many as 30 awards even though they didn’t enter the things and weren’t listed on the original entries.

Just because it was pumped through a trading platform I’m not sure it warrants an award, let alone 30.

Then there’s the ‘scamvertising’ – ads made specifically to win awards at Cannes.

As an industry let’s be honest with ourselves. Awards shows are becoming a bit of a joke, and they are actually stopping us from being even more creative.

Stopping us from creating the best communications that really matter and genuinely makes things happen.

But going back to the question. How would you plan on demonstrating the quality of your work as an agency or a marketing department if there weren’t any advertising award shows next year?

Perhaps you would put a man into space like Red Bull. Which incidentally didn’t enter it into Cannes for this very reason.

“The company (Red Bull) doesn’t enter the Cannes Lions–focusing instead on shows like the Sports Emmys, where they feel the content belongs”

 Via Fast Company

How many of those brands and agencies that won at Cannes, also entered them into anything more related to the industry they are in or the problem they are trying to solve. Very few I’d imagine.

Would the cute animation Dumb ways to die win an award in global transport safety? I doubt it.

So whilst I don’t begrudge award shows, I worry it’s stopping us from having more ambitious goals for the work we do and the recognition we receive as a result.

It feels all quite shallow. Unlike Sexy Goals:

“Sexy goals are goals that are interesting, provocative and desirable—at least to you. It doesn’t matter what others think”

Essentially I’d much rather brands and agencies aimed for sexier goals, similar to Red Bull rather than Gold Lions.