Industry Execs Debate Creative Awards

NEW YORK How can award shows make sure they accurately reflect a changing industry and avoid becoming irrelevant? That was the question posed at a breakfast panel in New York today.

The panel, Content + Contact = Contagious? was co-sponsored by British magazine Contagious and the Clio Awards (a property of Adweek parent VNU), and brought together past and present chairs of Clio’s three-year-old Content & Contact category.

Panel members included Nick Brien, CEO and president of Universal McCann; Ty Montague, chief creative officer and co-president of JWT in New York; Paul Woolmington, chairman and CEO of media kitchen in New York; and Scott Goodson, chief creative officer and founder of StrawberryFrog in New York. All but Goodson have served or will serve as Content & Contact jury chairs.

Paul Kemp-Robertson, editor of Contagious, moderated the discussion.

Aside from the “ego gratification” function of award shows, Montague said, creative competitions play a vital role in “gathering work that represents the way forward.” But the rigid categories that award shows divide work into—TV, print, radio, outdoor, etc.—leave no room for the multifaceted campaigns of today, panel members agreed.

“What’s wrong with awards is a reflection of what’s wrong with the industry: it’s too siloed,” said Woolmington.

Clio’s Content & Contact awards and the International Advertising Festival’s Titanium award—which recently revamped entry requirements for the second time in its three-year history—are two attempts to solve this problem. Content & Contact honors campaigns with excellence at the intersection of creative and media, and the Titanium award will now be presented to what jury members deem is a forward-thinking, innovative ad idea. But both are still grappling with realistic ways to judge big, untraditional ad ideas.

“It’s not easy to digest a breakthrough solution,” said Brien, who was the inaugural Content & Contact jury chair in 2003. “There is the danger of not being open to what you can’t see.”

The Clio Awards will take place next May in Miami.