The Andy’s turn to Face the Future: but could it be too late for awards shows?

—In this week’s instalment of The Redmond Review, Craig Redmond applauds the Andy’s new “Face the Future” jury but wonders if it will be enough to preserve a potentially endangered species: awards shows. Sign up for the newsletter here

In 1999, The Gunn Report was first published. The excruciatingly comprehensive analysis of advertising awards from around the world ranked agencies according to those wins.

Donald Gunn’s empirical research also received coverage in The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, giving the ad industry something it had craved for over a century: Legitimacy.

And so, the race began. The giant agency networks and their holding company overlords stampeded to rush the podium and clutch at any trophy they could get a hold of. Because for the first time in history, they could claim evidence-based proof that they were the worthier choice for a client to pick as their agency partner.

Soon afterwards, more and more award shows sprouted up like a plague, and entry fee inflation spiralled out of control—leaving only a few superpower agencies with deep pockets able to compete annually on a world stage.

But then another plague reared its ugly, spiky head. COVID-19 led to the cancellation of most of last season’s awards shows and resigned the remaining few to the empty insignificance of virtual events.

It has been a reckoning.

As agencies both behemoth and boutique crawl out from under the rubble of 2020, many are re-evaluating every line item of their P&L. That includes everything from the extortive prices they’ve been paying for office leases to, yes, the return on investment from awards shows.

Perhaps even more importantly, however, agency leaders and clients alike are re-evaluating the relevance and efficacy of those award shows. For more than 20 years now, we’ve held up the Gunn Report—and now the WARC rankings—as a testament to our value in the marketplace and proven connection with the worldwide consumer.

But the juries of those awards shows don’t exactly reflect the general public they’re supposed to be representing in their judgements. Unless, of course that general population is sampled at a country club in upstate New York.

I’m not sure what this Andy’s jury amalgam will actually look like. And while I applaud the sincerity of their intent, one wonders if it will answer the headier question that many of us have taken pause to ask ourselves this passing year: Are the days of the awards show arms race drawing to a close?

Craig Redmond is a Creative Leader with Palmer Stamnes and Co, an independent family of marketing communication companies