Why I Never Enter Advertising Competitions

Today I received an e-mail from American Business Media inviting me to submit (for a $135 fee) an ad I had written for an awards competition.

The prize? A ?Creative Excellence in Business Advertising? (CEBA) award.

A panel of eight judges ? seven ad agency types and one ?creative consultant? (note: not an advertiser among them) ? would pick a winner based on ? you guessed it ? which ad they thought was most ?creative.?

I have news for you CEBA committee members?.

We direct marketers submit our ads ? and mailings, and online marketing campaigns ? in a contest every day.

It?s called ?commerce.? The judges are the consumers who buy (or don?t buy) our products based on our ads. And the prize they award is their hard-earned cash.

So, CEBA, you can keep your plaque, or trophy, or whatever. Or give it to the branding guys who enter your hokey competition.

We direct marketers will settle for making the cash register ring ? a much better sound than the applause of ad agency ?creatives? ? don?t you agree?


825 thoughts on “Why I Never Enter Advertising Competitions

  • In my 25 years as a direct marketing copywriter (21 as a freelancer), I too have never entered one of these contests … but Bob, I’m not sure I share your distain.

    I agree that award shows are silly and self-congratulatory. And I agree that the success of a marketing program can only be measured by the response – not by an industry award.

    But I have never entered an award show for other reasons: First, I seldom do the kind of work that wins words. I don’t do “dimensional” mailers. I write more letter packages than self-mailers. And I am usually satisfied with two-color production. Second, I have always been bothered by the fact that the “creative” gets so much credit. Sure the judges might like the concept, copy and design, but it’s the offer and the list that’s going to make or break your campaign – and that doesn’t get any recognition. (I know I am a copywriter but it still bothers me.) And third, I am usually not paying attention when the “call for entries” is mailed out. Besides, I would rather spend the entry fee on something else.

    That said, I also know why agencies and freelancers do enter these contests. The main reason is that clients are impressed with awards, and a shelf-full of trophies is good publicity for any agency. I also believe that winning an award can be a morale booster for employees – both on the agency and the client side. And let’s not forget these awards shows put on a pretty good party.

    Bob, I share your frustration with the whole “awards show” mentality, but it’s a big part of our industry and I think it’s here to stay – with or without us.

    Bob McCarthy
    The Direct Response Coach

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