Monday, July 26, 2010

Let's reward our spectacular failures!

Professional recognition is great, particularly if you're still in career-augmentation mode. More years ago than I care to remember, I won a few awards over several years. Subsequent job offers followed. Strangely, the job interviews that stemmed from those wins all took place in city bars, but that's something I'll never quite resolve.

All I remember is knocking back one offer because I was in such dire financial straits with interest rates at 18% that I was on the verge of losing my house. I therefore could not take on any job that didn't provide a car, because that sort of purchase would have pushed me over the financial brink (I worked for Ford at the time so was well catered for in this regard).

But back to awards. I saw some awards handed out last week at an industry function. With due respect to the winners, who had put together some okay campaigns, none of them broke new ground and several won because of the sheer weight of budget. In fact, I have to say in all modesty that, in most instances, all I saw was replicas/hybrids of what we'd been doing for several years. But we didn't enter the awards program!

My point is not to decry the efforts of others, nor to whinge about opportunities lost by not entering. All I am asking is what is the value of awards programs? Certainly consumers care diddly squat about whether we've collected a marketing or communications award. But of course, they may count for something when you go for your next budget increase or, even more significantly, grovel for your next pay increase, bonus or promotion.

But can awards ultimately do the recipient a mis-service over the longer term?  If we win awards, are we tempted to kid ourselves that our effort and ingenuity sets a new benchmark for the industry? Because this is what good awards programs should be about - creating new benchmarks, thresholds below which no one should fall in future .

Perhaps all the good ideas that we're ever going to see have been acted upon, in which case we are doomed forever to view repeats as frequent as MASH reruns on cable TV. I hope this is not the case, because I would still like to see breakthrough ideas, people recognised and rewarded for taking risks with marketing and communications.

Perhaps every program should include a category for 'Most promising debacle'. This would give appropriate recognition that out of a failed idea might spring something fantastic that will point out new directions for the future.

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