Art & Commerce: Sharing the Spotlight

There’s a new reality, writes Michael Conrad. A creative can be anyone on the brand team
As a frequent award-show panelist, I’ve always been proud of the fact that global showcases have honored a broad spectrum of the industry’s masters, accurately reflecting the many contributors who make our craft so captivating. My concern, however, is that in spite of some new truths about our industry and how we communicate, award shows have become myopic and biased in terms of fully recognizing the true innovators. If this situation is not corrected, award shows stand to lose much of their caliber and credibility.
To be sure, award shows serve a vital function in the ad industry. They recognize great work–which research shows has a direct correlation on building brands. They let the industry know how high the bar is set, so the world-beaters know where to set their sights. And they celebrate the art of the idea. We must remain passionate in our recognition of ideas that have enough magic to break through the chaos of contemporary life. These ideas are the links that help create intimate relationships between consumers and brands.
It’s a job that is becoming more complex every day, and in many ways, becoming increasingly dependent upon disciplines like media, which has evolved from a smart afterthought to a strategic brand-building imperative.
Consider the following converging forces that necessitate a re-evaluation of media’s impact on our craft:
– Demographics: the traditional way of targeting based on age, gender, etc. still has a place in target marketing. However, the need to supplement it with other variables is greater than ever.
– Psychographics: the way to describe the community of consumers that becomes integrated and centered around the brand.
– Technographics: the way a consumer interacts with the media and the distribution of interest across TV, radio, print, Internet, etc. will influence the way they receive the message.
While media has been heralded for providing creative and innovative solutions to marketing challenges, media practitioners still do not qualify as “creatives.” Nonetheless, it is the creatives who are typically listed on award-show entries and trophies. But in reality, a creative can be anyone on a brand team.
Brilliant campaigns continue to be influenced and even driven not only by media but by any number of constituencies throughout the ad process.
To recognize these emerging influences on the creative process and to assure that award shows don’t lose their relevance, I propose that all responsible craftspeople be credited in award-show entry applications. To do otherwise would be to turn our backs on the reality of our industry, a reality recognized by our clients. Expanding the scope of nominations will stimulate even more creative work on behalf of our clients.
I’m happy to report that many award shows are taking steps to reflect the new reality. The International Advertising Festival at Cannes has opened its doors to media, and others appear ready to follow suit.
Well-managed award shows that celebrate our craft have earned their place. One major challenge is to keep them relevant in an industry marked by change. As someone who has long championed the importance of ad festivals, let me make the following simple suggestion: Let’s give credit where credit is due. What could be simpler?
Michael Conrad is vice chairman and chief creative officer at the Leo Burnett Co. in Chicago