Irrelevant Award-Chasers

Jeff Goodby, pilot of the mighty Goodby, Silverstein & Partners advertising agency has rightly said of the advertising industry:

“We’ve created a system that rewards work that is increasingly unknown to anyone outside the business. We have become connoisseurs of esoterica. And in the process, we’re becoming more about us, and less about changing the world. We are becoming irrelevant award-chasers. Sure, some of the best things we make nowadays are internet experiences with necessarily specific, limited audiences — that cab driver might not be expected to see them. But for the ones I’m talking about, the only intended audience is, well, us…”

Having just judged the Art Directors Club of Denver‘s annual award show with some bigtime judges, even one from Goodby (winners announced September 25), I’ve seen this first hand. It came up. And when I went to vote for best in show, I couldn’t throw my vote around lightly. It was ultimately a vote away from the obscure reference and toward a more inclusive, understandable message without ignoring the cultural cost of such a decision. Like ‘less is more’, clarity often finds the win in any situation, regardless of niche, metaphysics, or content of the message.

The rest of the Ad Age article…[Click the ‘continue reading’ link below}

can be found here.

29 Responses to Irrelevant Award-Chasers

  1. Ben June 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    wow. another splash of cold water. awesome. and helpful.

  2. Maik Dobiey June 24, 2009 at 1:25 pm #

    Interesting. That is the same tendency I have observed in a lot of photogs. Shooting some kind "art" that only few other photogs understand. Especially as an ad photog you shouldn't forget about the client's needs.

  3. Chase Jarvis June 24, 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    important distinction to ensure all your work doesn't look like somebody elses…realize that as a pro commercial photo, you probably only need ot appeal to 24 ADs or CDs per year. There IS enough work out there to easily sustain and grow your business with that rate of getting hired. And then its for what you want to shoot instead of otherwise.

  4. Rockhopper June 24, 2009 at 4:19 pm #

    I have worked for a self congatulary bunch of photographers, when I was whinging about to a reuters photographer he looked at the images and he said he could on the net and find amateurs pushing out work of a higher quality.

    Speaking to a fashion photographer I asked him what the best photograph he has ever done, he replied I have not took it yet but the day I do is the day I retire.

    The agency I was working with I could spot another photographers work just by the composition alone.

    I dont join in with them now as they are sycophants feeding off each others ego…

    I get more out of teaching and guiding photographers of tommorrow than navel gazing at my art.

    Art should be accessible to the proletariat, Some ADs couldnt find there nose reminds me of the dinner table scene in LA Story all following each others fashionable foibles, I will have a decaf water…


  5. Eric Broadhurst June 24, 2009 at 4:41 pm #

    It really is a challenge in any field to have mass appeal while still retaining expert appreciation. The "better" people get at things, generally the more concerned with expert opinion they become.

    An expert in any field appreciates a more nuanced execution of that fields skillset. I think it is tricky to include both nuances which appeal to experts and more widely accepted "pop" concepts which the majority will appreciate.

    Its tough, would you rather be a "Artists Artist" or Artist with mass appeal… what are the necessary parameters for the two to not be mutually exclusive.

  6. fas June 25, 2009 at 10:45 am #

    Well the industry sure is getting tough

  7. Jason Lindsey June 25, 2009 at 6:18 pm #

    Love this post. Could not be more true. I try to do my thing and be a commercial photographer. of course i have not yet succeeded in that but I push for it every assignment. I put my vision in the photo but also try to figure out a way to creatively create images powerful, creative, personal and appropriate for the Brand. Either way it is fun and I shoot personal work for me on a weekly bases without any clients.

  8. Andrew MacPherson June 25, 2009 at 9:41 pm #

    "We've created a system that rewards work that is increasingly unknown to anyone outside the business…"

    The system that rewards good work is the system that involves clients paying agencies and not putting their accounts up for review if the work has met their expectations. I'm personally fond of this system. I doubt Jeff Goodby has too many problems with it either.

    Awards highlighting creativity are valuable and inspirational. It's also important to note that things recognized as creative are often ahead of the public's taste. Is that a bad thing?

    The Oscars aren't awarded to the films that make the most money, they're awarded to the films The Academy (another group of industry insiders) deems to be exceptional according to their preferences. The same is true of the NFL's Pro-Bowl, most sports MVP awards, and on down the line.

    Goodby's remarks are also at least 46 years away from breaking new ground anyway. David Ogilvy was closer to the point in 1963 when he wrote, "Resist the temptation to write the kind of copy which wins awards. I am always gratified when I win an award, but most of the campaigns which produce results never win awards." -Confessions of an Advertising Man

    Winning an award and running a successful campaign aren't mutually exclusive. The problem is only realized when a campaign is created for the award crowd, AND against the client's best interests. Sure, this probably happens, but it's more sensational to decry award shows (while you currently have numerous entries in Cannes as Goodby does) than it is to weigh the sides accurately and/or simply be thankful for the recognition.

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