ICA cancels 2020 Effies, calls for halt on all awards show spending for rest of the year

With the entire economy almost certain to undergo months of decline as a result of the COVID crisis, the Institute of Communication Agencies wants the ad world to take a break from awards shows for the rest of the year.

“We are calling on our industry to unite in postponing all remaining 2020 investments in awards shows so we can focus on the well-being of our people and clients as we face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads a statement issued Thursday and signed by more than two dozen agency heads (see the list of agencies below).

The ICA also runs the Effie Awards in Canada. The judging for this year’s show is already underway and the winners will be announced at a later date, without a gala which had already been cancelled. However, after that the Effies will be put on hold until 2021.

“The ICA will not be making a Call for Entry to the 2020 Effie Awards Canada in September 2020 and we strongly recommend that all other award shows suspend submissions for this year,” says the statement. “Our full efforts must be directed to supporting the rebound of the agency sector for the long-term health of the industry.”

While the depth and breadth of a near-certain COVID-induced recession is still uncertain, it became clear in recent weeks that awards shows would be one of the first discretionary costs to be cut by agencies as they prepare for some rough months ahead.

Most notably, that trend was demonstrated by the cancellation of the Cannes Lions last week which had already been rescheduled from June until October.

The decision to postpone the Effies was made by the ICA leadership, but the call to stop all awards shows spending for the rest of the year came from some members of the association, said Scott Knox, ICA president and CEO.

“They were keen to let it be known that agencies need to stand up as much as possible for people first, and actually support their people, and awards are not what we should be even thinking about right now,” he said.

Asked about the potential harm to other awards programs in Canada that effectively compete with the Effies for agencies’ awards show budgets, Knox said he has reached out to discuss that with Brunico—which runs the Marketing, Media Innovation Awards, Atomic, Strategy and Shopper Innovation Awards in Canada (Brunico did not respond to a request for comment).

The hope is that if agencies can skip this year, they’ll come back and support the awards shows in a stronger fashion in 2021, said Knox. “We do compete, but let’s compete next year,” he said.

“We just want everybody to make the decision, for the sake of the industry, that we all pull the plug on everything for 2020 and not ask for a single dollar from the agency sector, from clients for the rest of this calendar year. This is us saying we will do that and hope that the others will follow suit.”

The CMA, which holds its awards show in the fall, said it still plans to go ahead. “Excellence deserves to be recognized in all times,” said Sara Clodman, the CMA’s vice-president, public affairs and thought leadership.

However, it is looking at making changes in response to the challenges faced by the industry.

“In recognition of the dynamic environment that our members are facing, we are actively looking at a number of accommodations that we can make on pricing and format,” said Clodman. “We will be guided by the input of our 400-plus members, including more than 70 agencies, and also from government and public health experts.

“The CMA Awards Gala is not until November 20, so we have a longer planning environment than others.”

The Advertising & Design Club of Canada, which also holds its awards show in November, said it too is looking at changes, but not yet cancellation.

“The situation is obviously changing day by day,” said Michelle Ovcaric, ADCC executive director. “We’re exploring all options available to us and being mindful of the challenges that our creative community is currently facing. As a non-profit organization, The ADCC is in a very different position compared to the other national and international companies that run awards programs, and to continue to exist and thrive as we’ve done for the past 71 years, we need to consider all possible avenues.”


The agencies that signed the ICA statement to stop all award show spending for the rest of 2020.

6 Degrees


Camp Jefferson

Camp Pacific


Colony Project


Cossette Media


Diamond Integrated Marketing

Giants & Gentlemen



Horizon Media

John St

Jungle Media

Juniper Park\TBWA


Leo Burnett



McCann Health

Marshall Fenn





Publicis Media

Sid Lee



The Hive

The Mars Agency




Wunderman Thompson

David Brown