Hell yes. Awards matter

—With the Cannes Lions about to begin, KAREN HOWE offers a reminder about why industry awards are so important—

I was sitting in a meeting, the lone creative at the table, when I heard these words uttered by a colleague: “Why don’t we talk about what clients really care about? Results, not creative awards.”

I wanted to slit my wrists with the nearest dry marker.

How can anyone who professes to know anything about our business not understand the symbiotic relationship between stellar creativity and results?

Creativity is that rare alchemy that transforms a problem into an opportunity. The numerous studies that show award-winning work’s role in building the bottom line should be mandatory reading for all.

McKinsey, for example, has shown that Cannes Lions-winning creative outperforms work that fails to grace the podium. And it does so by a significant margin (54% in one case). It cited examples from big global brands in fiercely competitive categories, such as McDonald’s in QSR.

Studies aside, great work being effective is simply common sense. The currency of our trade is consumer attention. Think of the barriers marketers now face. Ours is the ADD generation, with attention spans fragmented by endless toggling between Instagram, texts, and e-mails, all while watching Netflix. Add to that stew the thousands of ads that bombard us throughout the day, wherever we are.

You can have the best media plan in the world and a breathtaking digital strategy, but it won’t matter if your idea is dreck. Phenomenal creative is the only way to climb out of the morass.

If your idea is the same, safe, predictable beige concept that nestles gently among other safe ideas, you might as well hit the snooze button.

That is why creative boldness, bravery and courage deserves to be rewarded. It sets the bar for the rest of us. Ideas that are a burr under the saddle are unforgettable. Our fingers pause on the keyboard and our heads turn to acknowledge them.

You need an insight, yes. But you also need a brilliantly fresh way to communicate it. Creativity is the ultimate magic needed to pierce the cynical and weary armour every consumer now wears.

And that is very, very tough to do.

That’s why in our field, as in many others, we must recognize and honour that work. Is it the shoelaces that make Nike unforgettable? No. Think about Apple or any of our best-loved brands. It’s the creative that defines them and what they stand for, that gives them voice. And brilliant creative is what lifts them all above the maddening chatter out there.

Big ideas are big business. These are not mutually exclusive. Never were.

There’s a winner in every race. A nod to those who perform beyond the norm.

We celebrate them. Why not us?

Karen Howe is founder of The Township Group in Toronto. As a member of Canada’s Cannes Advisory Board, she’ll be in Cannes next week sharing insights and analysis on her blog and Linkedin

David Brown