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Absatzwirtschaft round table: “Brands and awards are a currency for agency employees”

Absatzwirtschaft round table: “Brands and awards are a currency for agency employees”

The Absatzwirtschaft Round Table dealt with creative agencies in 2018: The top-class round with Dr. Stephan Vogel (Ogilvy), Larissa Pohl (Jung von Matt), Arno Lindemann (LLR) and Norman Störl (Blood Actvertising) looked at the importance of creative awards and conferences over the years, moderated by Georg Altrogge and Johannes Ceh. The essential cornerstone here: The value of creativity.

20 years ago, a friend of mine won a Cannes-Löwen and then marched proudly through Munich for a week with a shakka cry. Today we both laugh about it. Do you know such experiences?

Arno Lindemann: At the beginning of my career at Springer & Jacoby, we won the first bronze lion, and the whole agency actually celebrated like that. Nowadays the whole thing has become much more inflationary: an agency that has not won at least 15 lions, if possible gold, is hardly mentioned in the media anymore. When we founded our own agency ten years ago, one thing was clear: we had to get into the top ten quickly. Customers just look at it. We have shoveled capacity parallel to day-to-day business in order to go that extra mile. Teams were used that actually work for paid customers. That can really add to the cost.

Customers don’t pay for this work?

Lindemann: Of course you try to sell your clients the work. We say: This is a special idea that broadens your horizons. We’ll show what is feasible with the brand, regardless of the briefing. But that too has to be put into perspective: If a customer is willing to give us 50,000 euros in addition to our own expenses for the entire production of such a special idea, for example, because we as the agency and the productions are willing to work for it virtually free of charge , then we as an agency have to explain the challenge at the next briefing that a job briefed by the customer now costs many times as much. We kind of shoot ourselves in the knee.

This year, Blood Actvertising dropped out, called not to submit to awards like the ADC Festival. What was the motivation?

Norman Störl: I think the industry is devaluing itself, and creative awards make their contribution. To be precise: It’s how awards are handled. The question is: Isn’t there anything more sensible to do with your money than to pump it into these awards? When I started the job, I was inspired by ad spreads in Stern and Spiegel, which also won awards, and thought: Wow. Who did that? At some point the business problem was decoupled from creating ideas. The result was an unequal competition: works from briefings that had to go through x tests, processes and committees were compared with doped prototypes. Such a comparison already devalues ​​the work that arose from a briefing and day-to-day business. We have to be careful that the industry doesn’t make itself untrustworthy.

Lindemann: On the other hand, brands and awards are a currency for agency employees. Our agency experienced this intensely when we took an award break and in the meantime invested time and money in our own e-health start-up. Then we heard from some applicants: “It’s nice about the start-ups, but I want the fame. I already want that. I want to be with a creative agency. ”The currency is the creative ranking. If you’re not in there, it’s not a creative agency. Here I would like the trade press not only to focus on lions and nails, but also to take a look: What do small offices and agencies that don’t buy into the award circus do, because otherwise such good stuff? Hardly any of them manage to be a creative boutique and create glamor for employees if they are not in the award rankings.

Awards are a game that some people have not felt good about for a long time. The video from Blood Actvertising gave that voice. Even hijacked the slogan from the ADC. “Feed your creativity” became “Feed your creativity”. How is that been accepted at the ADC?

Stephan Vogel: As a compliment. Anyone who is satirized is the market leader. Thrashing the little ones is unsporting. But there really was a time when the award system was perverted and big things were done and submitted for the small condom shop. That has improved. In recent years, we have made sure in all juries that the relevant, major works for brands make it into the medal ranks. So that these scams no longer have the same chances as they might have been ten years ago.

Lindemann: The perfidious thing is: Yes, there are no longer those little condom ads that win. But there are now extremely laboriously “tuned” submissions. Even companies and their ideas are bought or technical universities are used. This gives the impression: It couldn’t have been a fake campaign. That must be real.

Bird: Absolutely, the submitters have become smarter. There is a sentence: If there weren’t any Olympics, nobody would run the 100 meters in less than 10 seconds. But nowhere is it written that there has to be a ranking. This is the German trade press. The English and American trade press do not determine an Agency of the Year after stubbornly adding up gold, silver and bronze in 15 competitions, but instead use other, more sensible parameters such as new business success, growth, visible large projects and campaigns, etc. But basically, the ADC is there to make creative quality visible. This is exactly the chance that the Arno Agency (LLR) used to start as a small agency. With excellent work, a small agency like any other can get onto the gold podium or maybe even the Grand Prix.

Larissa Pohl: The problem is the rankings, they cannot be found anywhere else. In the case of actors, Golden Globes and Oscars are not combined into a ranking of a magazine or a broadcaster. Effie himself is out of all media-created rankings and stands for himself, which I find a great relief.

is the way the ADC manages the award business is still up-to-date?

Bird: In the six years that I have been ADC President, we have continuously improved the competition and adapted it to the realities of the market. The multiplication of categories does not reflect a profit intention, but what is happening in the market. The ADC is a registered non-profit association. Our goal is that everything that exists in terms of communication outside is represented in the competition. In addition, every agency has to find its own way of dealing with awards.

Pohl: The Effie stands as a reference for effective communication across different categories. Real work will be submitted that has taken place on the market. We evaluate the use of resources and the effectiveness of the idea. That shows the business relevance. There is a high correlation between creativity and effectiveness – again and again. This pattern repeats itself, others run out as copycats of strange big ideas like the twelfth company sneaker. But I have the impression that, besides the award discussion, there is another separate discussion that is currently being conducted in parallel: the pitch culture. For which tasks and framework conditions do I enter the race as an agency?

Size: I think they belong together, because there are expectations of customers who think I’m a creative customer. So I can request a service on a lower budget. And then the next one says: “I want that too.”

Pohl: It’s a question of attitude regardless of the pitch. The pitch is completely different from working with existing customers. In the existing business, we calculated what – purely in terms of time – actually remains for the creative service in a regular campaign. In addition to voting and decision-making, that’s maybe 20 percent for pure creative work. This most important time is squeezed in from the front and back by administration, project management, the boss’s Easter holiday, etc. 80 percent, which could be significantly slimmed down in favor of creative performance. I believe that new processes also have a massive impact on quality, and I see that as positive for many of our customers.

Size: I would like to contradict Stephan Vogel again. I don’t think that the creative muscle is only trained in award shows. Our industry is in constant competition: for talent, mandates, market shares. If we say that creativity is our lever, then it has to be excellent where it takes place.

Bird: We mustn’t forget where we come from. From the thinking of the Kroeber-Riels of this world, who preach and show that you can be successful in marketing with a completely uncreative product. A time when money could buy attention and market shares through mass media. In the digital media world everyone is forced to rethink and act in new ways. After decades of uncreative advertising, Procter & Gamble sent their people to Cannes in 2002. Six years later they became Advertiser of the Year. Corporations also have a creative agenda today.

Lindemann: Those were the times of Villariba and Villabajo or Dr. Best, who did not stop optimizing the toothbrush shape, which had already been optimized 800 times.

Bird: And that was how it was advertised. Penetration. If you can’t switch off quickly enough, you are exposed to this stuff. We creatives have always said: “Take the people outside seriously, penetrate, bored and do not under-challenge them.”