Wnek on award shows and creativity

Mark Wnek's column in the Independent this week discusses the separation between winning awards and being creative when it comes to real clients. Here's an excerpt:

Awards competitions are the last bastions against the intrusion of business, where creative people can lionise their "art" unconstrained by commercial considerations. Criteria for victory have now become eccentric if not esoteric, removed from the real world in which advertising is supposed to function and be commercially effective.

Advertising with tiny or absent product logos does well in awards competitions. Ads in which the product barely appears do well. Stuff which is cool and groovy and young does well. Work which is original for the sake of originality alone does well. Commercials directed by directors with Hollywood or underground cachet do well. Advertising which is antisocial or offensive does well. Work which is little more than a sponsored joke does well. Work which is wild and crazy and incomprehensible does well.

Nearly all of the above advertising has as its sine qua non a would-be avant-garde but in reality highly narrow-minded aesthetic of cool - narrow-minded because it's not designed for anyone above the age of 24. That's leaving out quite a lot of people with quite a lot of money to spend. Like the whole of Middle England (and Middle America) for instance.

AnonymousCoward's picture
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Dabitch's picture

At international awards in Cannes, for instance, US commercials for local TV stations and Swedish posters for tattooists usually do well.

*giggle* I think Wnek meant to say "Norwegian tattoo campaigns" : like this one that won Grand Prix in Cannes, and it's predecessor, also from Norway.. Yeah yeah, I know, us scandinavians are all the same to you, right? ;) /NitPick.

CopyWhore's picture

Would hate to work for a guy who insists on creating advertising for the lowest-common-denominator...

Something which stands in contrast to Goodby's philosophy: create advertising for the highest-common-denominator.

Ah well. Wnek's comments should have a nice, alienating effect on the hungry, young guys who most likely do the lion's share of work at his agency.

Way to motivate the troops!

troymcclure's picture

While I largely agree with you, Mr. Whore, I think Mr. Wnek's argument does have some validity. He doesn't espouse pandering to the lowest common denominator or embracing mediocrity. Rather, he seems to be saying that advertising should appeal to its intended audience rather than the same two dozen or so ponytail-wearing, cappuccino-sipping creatives who are fixtures on the award show circuit. Kind of hard to fault that.

Don't get me wrong: Awards are nice. But I think there is entirely too much importance attached to them. An ad that may seem "cool" to you or me or Jeff Goodby may not necessarily resonate with the people it's ostensibly trying to reach. (And can I just say that I've always wanted to use the word "ostensibly" in a sentence? Makes me feel so erudite.)

Hidden Persuader's picture

Gsus :] I could write ... and write on this subject, especially when I'm not a criative copywriter or art director, and especially when that topic is quite hot here in Portugal. Basically, I reckon we start for answering something quite simple: is the goal of advertising festivals to recognize and award ideas (good ones, inspiring ones that cannot find a client to materialize them) .. err, or is the goal of such festivals to award creative executions that have a brief, an account, a planner, a director, a ... client?

deeped's picture

I thought it was your thing with that Dutch (?) tattoist?

Dabitch's picture

aw, shucks. sweet - doubt it, since that never entered Cannes. ;)

deeped's picture

It should have entered. If there was some justice :)

viralmeister's picture

He has a point and it will be interesting to see if the up and coming Viral Awards fair any better . In principle I don't have a problem with creatives judging each others work, but really their 'opinions' are not that important and let's face it there are just so many creative awards now that their value is completely diminished. In the end, it strikes me that efficacy is a much better criteria for success than aesthetics.