The question gnawed at me right through the final round of judging at the One Show Awards in New York this past week. And listening to the great George Lois speak with us at a small informal get together only made the question gnaw at me even more.
As he spoke of his days sitting elbow to elbow with another legend, Helmut Krone, it struck me that the history of advertising was actually written by guys who never worried about the future of our business as much as we do today.
They lived in the here and now of their times while we spend our waking hours worrying about where we are headed tomorrow. Not for them, the impending onslaught of the television age and new media, whatever that means. They simply rolled up their sleeves and got down to doing it long before Dan Wieden actually wrote it.
Yet we, with possibly the widest array of communication tools in history at our command, worry more about our profound prophecies of tomorrow than the realities of today.
Is it that, then? Has our intellectual firepower moved so far ahead of our creative abilities that we don’t know where to start? Has the heaving churn of change been so cataclysmic that predicting the future has become more important than writing it? Is constriction actually the grandmother of invention in this business?
Coming back to the Show, one aspect that continued to disappoint was the continuing domination of a few glamour product categories in every award show – the poster boys of the award world – Fashion, Gaming, Automobiles, Sportswear, Tourism and Beverages.
Isn’t it too much of a coincidence that a dominant majority of all the awards won in every show around the world over the past 10 years are in categories where the creators and the judges also happen to be the target audience for those brands?
So, if the best work done by the best people and recognised by the best people in the industry consistently belongs to a few categories, which coincidentally has those very same people as normal consumers, it doesn’t say a lot for the industry’s sense of neutrality and professionalism, does it?
What happens to baby food and shoe polish and cosmetics and home improvement, etc.? If there is no advertising in these categories over the last decade that we as a group consider good enough, shouldn’t those categories be doing really badly now?
It makes one wonder whether award juries should not only span agencies and markets, but TGs as well. I mean, there’s not much a elderly creative person of female persuasion can do in the face of a testosterone-fuelled mob of uber cool males desperately hiding a mid-life crisis, is there?
So they travel around the world, this group that has more sovereignty than a nation and more solidarity than any network, unified by the consumerism of fleeting youth and rewarding work that they do for their own consumption to sell products for their own needs and winning awards that only they qualify to win.
Make no mistake – I belong staunchly to this group myself.
I am just wondering whether the award industry has quietly become more powerful than the advertising industry, which it is born out of.
Has the family pet that occasionally skipped across the porch grown so large that it now controls the living room? Has the man of the match award and presentation ceremony become much larger than the match itself? I know, these are questions that I, particularly, should be the last person to raise.
May be after I judge at Cannes, I will stop.