Surviving the Awards Shows

As we get into the thick of advertising awards show season, here’s some survival advice.

If you won, know that your work is the absolute best. It’s pure genius — on par with Leonardo da Vinci (who, by the way, never won any ad awards, although Picasso scored a few regional Addys). Until next year at this time, your work will set the standard, causing angina and bitter bile to rise in the throats of those who resent your talent. Let them wallow in misery; you must live in the hell of trying to do at least as well in next year’s show, because once the awards have been passed around, the scoreboard starts clean again. Damn time-space continuum.

If you lost, welcome to Shameville. Accept the loser’s secret handshake — a slap in the face. There, there, don’t cry. Instead, let’s get all Dr. Phil on the subject and see if we can’t help ourselves feel better.

The judges of the show were obviously idiots. For them not to recognize your brilliance was a great tragedy — right up there with Britney and K-Fed reproducing. This is not sour grapes; it’s exposing the fact that a terrible injustice has been committed.

The judges apparently did not appreciate the degree of difficulty you had getting your work produced, how you carried your newborn idea across the tundra, nurturing and protecting it while ravenous wolves chased you, savagely nipping at your heels, trying to maim and kill your precious baby. You heroically fought to protect your child from being destroyed by fear-filled forces within the agency and sphincter-tightening clients outside it. You delivered the goods, but for naught. The unjust judges put their thumbs down and gave your work the finger. Ouch.

And what won? Work that may have never even run or is derivative of past winners or produced for an illegitimate client or, perhaps, is gutsy, but strategically lame, so it failed in the marketplace. Or maybe it’s work that’s truly great, but then again that client always does great work, so why should that merit recognition? Whatever work did win did not deserve to win compared to your work. You got screwed — totally, royally, regrettably.

And not to be paranoid, but did you notice the judges had some connection to the winning work? They are personal friends of the winners or had worked with the winners in the past or have had the winners judge shows for them. Or maybe the judges happen to be driving brand new cars or living in plush new condos. Coincidence? Perhaps. Suspicious? You bet.

It hurts when our children aren’t selected as the best and the brightest; we take it personally. It’s an ego-reflex thing, not unlike when we’re dating and get dumped. “Oh, well,” we comfort ourselves, “she/he had large pores anyway.” We move on, resuscitating our ego, inflating our self-confidence and diving back into the dating pool.

But awards show rejection gives you the added insult of having paid entry fees for the honor of getting your fragile self-esteem crushed. You also get heaping sides of humiliation and misery as you watch some undeserving bastard collect your award. Can alcohol ever numb that particular pain? You’re not sure, but you’ll find out.

In your imagination, you foresaw your inevitable glorious victory with peers hoisting you onto their shoulders, cheering your genius and placing you on the back of the convertible for you to give the parade wave to the cheering masses. The weather forecast called for showers of ticker tape and champagne corks, building up to a monsoon of tears from the poor souls you vanquished — their work unworthy, your work clearly far, far superior. Oh, it was going to be something else, but you were determined to be humble in accepting adoring adulation.

Then reality gave you a swift hard one to the psyche and your ego doubled over in excruciating pain. You crumpled to the canvas, assumed the fetal position and counted along with the ref. “Ten” could not come soon enough.

Now you must accept the agony of defeat. Does the loss diminish the beauty and brilliance of your babies? No. When your kids compete in sports and come up short, do you belittle, berate and disown them? No, not unless your name is the Great Santini or you’re some kind of cruel, unfeeling jerk.

The judges were certainly gravely mistaken. Your work is inspired, it is wonderful and you still love it, damn it all. Unconditional love, baby. Just because it didn’t win doesn’t mean it’s lost. It only means it didn’t win.

First and foremost you must be satisfied with what you do and what you created because the ultimate judge and jury preside in your head. They liked what you did and your client liked it well enough to put some money behind it; that’s victory. And if your work actually moved the market, congratulations, you win an advertising reality award — you rang the cash register.

You lost an awards show, big deal. Get over it. Lick your wounds and let time be your healing salve. You still get paid nice bucks, dress bohemian-casual and hang with some of the most interesting people in the business world. You don’t have to sweat too much and rarely get dirty. Not too shabby a career.

Remember: There’s always next year — you’ll show those bastards then — and always other awards shows to enter. Start practicing that parade wave.

Pat Scullin is CCO at Ames Scullin O’Haire in Atlanta.