More and more ‘advertising awards’ will be won by non-advertising-agencies.

Advertising awards, soon on a desk near you?
Advertising awards, soon on a desk near you?

The advertising industry might be the most award-heavy industry there is. Many advertising professionals go great lengths to debunk and downplay the importance of these awardshows (really guys, if you think they’re b*llshit, stop doing them). But with marketing and advertising moving from ads to acts, more and more agencies will be beaten at their own game: the advertising awards.

Marketing and advertising are changing from ads to acts. It’s less about creating a funny print ad or TV spot, it is about REALLY making a difference in people’s lives. It is about doing something remarkable and putting a spotlight on it. In other words, more companies start realising everything they do is communication, not just their advertising campaigns.

Just have a look at the Cannes Lions last year and some recent award shows to see what I mean. Take Volkswagen Fun TheoryKLM Surprise, Brammo’s Shocking Barack, Pilot Handwriting and even the Samsung Shakedown. That’s not about ads, that’s about acts.
The more advertising agencies start to create a different kind of campaigns, the more they will face other kinds of companies that have a huge experience advantage and that will probably beat them.

  • More and more campaigns will be about measuring results and proving return on investment. Research agencies have years of experience in that.
  • More and more campaigns will be about solving real business problems. Strategic consultancy firms eat that for breakfast.
  • More and more campaigns will be about making existing consumer touchpoints worth sharing or at least, extremely pleasant. Well, even research agencies do that. My employer InSites Consulting turned a customer callcenter with an NPS of -31 into a significantly more pleasant customer callcenter with an NPS of -1 by implementing a simple feedback loop. You could even argue that is an Effie case.
  • More and more campaigns will be about generating the right kind of buzz. PR agencies have a long history in creating stuff that travels through mainstream media and are catching up in the digital world.
  • More and more campaigns will be about smart, new uses of technology. Startups own this space. And advertising agencies realize this.
  • More and more campaigns will be about DOING things insteads of TELLING things. Product development companies and even advertisers themselves have great experience in this field.

And yes, advertising agencies are creative powerhouses. But advertising just isn’t all about creativity anymore, it is about smart ideas (read Astrid Groenewegen’s excellent post about that). And yes, research agencies, strategic consultancy firms, PR agencies, startups, product development companies and advertisers DO have the skills to come up with creative solutions and smart ideas.

The more advertising and communications will be about these skills, the more advertising agencies will encounter specialists that WILL kick their asses.
They better prepare.

  1. Thanks for your refreshing take on the future of advertising!

    You mention various fields of experience in which various companies excel. In my opinion the advertising industry has always been the industry connecting these fields. The industry that knows something of everything.

    Don’t you think specialist companies are less capable of building a brand, because they have only one of the needed pieces of the puzzle?

  2. I think it’s kind of bizarre to dismiss the strategic/creative skills of agencies as something all these other ‘specialists’ can easily pick up on.
    In my experience it’s usually their specialist nature which prohibits them from nurturing and developing this talent. I tend to agree with the comment below, furthermore: take a guess as to how long it will take before these specialists start inventing names for themselves which are more agencylike and generalistic?

  3. Back in 2005 Jim Taylor published his book Space Race, in which he attached a few hard facts to the broad tenant of this argument.

    He showed that advertising agencies had benefitted little from the growth generated by the shift to integrated marketing and submitted that this was at least in part because they had set out their stall as specilaists. Clients, it seemed, just didn’t trust “advertising” agencies, because of their commitment to and investment in “advertising”, to be able to deliver the kind of broader solutions that businesses need in today’s marketplace. He also showed that businesses like management consultancies had won the lion’s share of new business a) because they were considered media neutral and b) because they had project management skills and Jim predicted that specialist consultancies would also prevail because of their fee-based business model and more real-world business approach.

    These days no business can afford to employ a one-trick pony. There’s only one thing worse and that’s a one-trick pony that pretends it isn’t because that’s where the money is and advertising agencies’ reputation for pretence precedes them. I work with marketing services firms around the world to develop their businesses, among them advertising agencies who I help gain a perspective on the real world, adopt a new perspective on business generally and their role in it and create the tools and processes they need to regain their relevence.

    I disagree that we don’t need the big idea anymore. If anything we need bigger thinking and bigger ideas that cut through the increasing noise and work across broader strategies. The idea of a continuous stream of small ideas as an alternative to the big idea has been proven to be unsustainable. I’ll buy into the principle of a continuous stream of cameo campaigns that highlight facets of the bigger idea or brand, but that’s just good old-fashioned “tactical” and “strategic” marketing and communications with the addition of greater consitency that all marketing must have today.

    We need big ideas and advertising agencies and all manner of other specialists are as likely to have them as anybody, but the guys in the driving seat are the businesses that own the client’s strategy and manage the projects. This doesn’t exclude advertising agencies, but they have a loger way to go than most to convince businesses that they have bought into new model marketing.

  4. It seems to be trending that way and in a clear reflection of how the creativity and IP is increasingly external to the agencies, particularly the ‘big name’ traditional monolythic types, is how they seem to be turning up at all the industry conferences, seminars and awards events presenting awards or worse, creating awards to solicit the good campaign ideas – but they don’t seem to be winning any awards for their own work. Is it enough to be seen and have a high profile to be considered ‘a leader in the field of branded entertainment’ or does one have to demonstrate best of breed results to be re veered, by say – winning a few of the awards they present? Just a thought.

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