Agency Awards: Marketing Opportunity or Circle Jerk?

Jon Bailey // Apr 4 // Insights



It’s awards season in the agency business, and those Invitations to Submit are stacking up. It’s amazing how many notifications we get inviting i.d.e.a. to submit our fine work for this award or that honor. An outstanding number of opportunities really – so many that we could have a full time person spend all their time coordinating the onerous entry process for each of these programs.
But is it all really worth it?
As the guy in charge of business development at our company, I would have to answer yes. And as an agency founder interested in my team being recognized and honored for their fantastic creative accomplishments, I would also have to say yes.

Yet as the business owner watching the amount of time we spend on these entries and the sometimes questionable objectives of some award programs, I’d have to answer a big qualified maybe. Sometimes. On a selected basis. After careful consideration.
The Truth About Agency Awards
I mean let’s face it – it’s a true and real honor to be recognized by nationally esteemed, qualified judges and your industry peers, calling out your accomplishments in a special way. That feels really good, and those awards are the ones we cherish and place in a special spot for all to witness – like the three Gold Awards and Best of Show honor we recently received from the San Diego ADDYS for our work on the International Motorcycle Shows. I’m so very proud of our team for their work on this brand, award recognition or not. And without a doubt, these are not the only awards we will win for this breakthrough creative work.

And I can make hay of this. We can use the platform of winning awards to market i.d.e.a. to prospective clients, letting brands know our work is nationally recognized as among the very best. Some CMOs care about this and some do not, but they cannot discount the work when so many consider it award-winning.

Then there are those awards that seem somehow self-congratulatory. Sometimes it seems like every Tom, Dick and Harry is in the awards business, and believe me, it can be big business. There are quite a few organizations that host awards specifically to make money, or to further their own interests in some way.
Agency Awards: Questions to Ask Before Entering
So how can you tell which ones to enter? Here are some helpful hints:

  • Have you heard of this award before? If no one is talking about it, there’s probably a reason.
  • Who are the past awardees? Are they firms you respect? Was the work truly worthy of recognition?
  • What company will you keep? Are others entering work you wish you had done? Work for clients you wish you had?
  • What value does this award have for you? Will it be put on a shelf to gather dust? Will you be able to use it as a biz dev platform?

Awards That Matter
Here are some good ones to consider (and I’m sure there are many others depending on your area of industry and interest):

At last count, there were more than 250 awards programs in the marketing category. Either we love to celebrate great creative accomplishments, or we are the biggest narcissists in the world. Maybe both.

Good luck!


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